It's not the first time Barry Zito has said goodbye to Bay Area baseball fans. But it's almost certainly the last.
Zito, who spent his entire major league career pitching for the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants, announced Monday he's done with professional baseball and is embarking on a new career as a songwriter.
It's not like Zito's future was the subject of a lot of speculation. Most fans probably assumed that after the rough road the lefthander has traveled -- the brutal disappointment of his long, extremely well-paid but losing tenure with the San Francisco Giants, followed by a year out of baseball and a 2015 season spent almost entirely with the Oakland A's Triple A team in Nashville -- Zito was done with the game.
He made it official with a graceful piece posted Monday on The Players' Tribune in which he reflects on his career of "euphoric highs and devastating lows":
I’ve been at the top of a rotation and the 25th man on a roster. I’ve started Game 1 of a World Series in one year and I’ve been left off of a postseason roster in another. I’ve been labeled as both drastically underpaid and severely overpaid. I’ve been praised as a savior and deemed a curse. The thing I take the most pride in, however, is not my career itself, not the Cy Young or even the World Series rings. Those things are important, but they only ever gave temporary satisfaction, a fleeting spike or two on my ego’s Richter scale. They are memories that I cherish, of course, but they’re only symbols of something bigger and more challenging to articulate in words.
Beyond all of the achievements, the single thing that fulfills me today is the acceptance of myself as a worthy and valuable person, regardless of what my stature or position in the world was on a given day of my career. Through the ups and downs, accepting myself was by far the hardest thing to achieve over the last 15 years. I believe it is a battle we all face as we are taught to buy into the ravenous lie that any great success, short-lived fame or bank account will bring us the deep fulfillment we are searching for.
Yes, it's great to see past the disabling illusion that fame and riches bring happiness. I can't help but wonder, though, whether enlightenment comes just a little easier for a guy who won the Cy Young Award with the A's and grossed something like $125 million while a member of the Giants. (For what it's worth, Zito credits his wife, Amber, and Jesus for his ability to come to terms with the hardship of his career downturn.)