JOE AND BARRY Zito
When Barry Zito was seven, a Little League umpire told Barry's father, Joe, that the boy had a natural curveball. How was Joe to have known? He'd been a musician his entire life—he once was a conductor and arranger for Nat King Cole—and had no baseball background. After that day, though, Joe devoured books on the sport and passed the knowledge on to his son. When Barry was 13, Joe sent him to former San Diego Padres pitcher and 1976 Cy Young winner Randy Jones for pitching lessons, paying Jones for each session, he says, by taking $50 "out of the meal money." The investment paid off. Last year, at 24, Barry Zito went 23-5 for the Oakland As and won the Cy Young Award.
Joe: "From the time he was 7� until almost 19, we were in the backyard every day. I think we missed three days."
Barry:" Three sounds a little low, but it wasn't many more days than that. We did something every day, whether it was reading, pitching or running."
Joe: "The one thing I've always tried to teach him is that all of the great things in life are inside yourself: love, harmony, courage, conviction, commitment."
Barry: "I can't put into words what he means to me. It's like asking, 'What do your two legs mean to you? ' "
T.J. AND LEO Ford
When his youngest son, T.J., reached junior high, Leo Ford began bringing him to his men's league basketball games in Baytown, Texas, T.J. didn't have his father's great stroke and was one of the smallest kids in his class, but he could play. It wasn't long before Leo's teammates agreed that the pint-sized teen should take over as the team's point guard. Leo's little boy is still little by basketball standards (5'10"), but he led Texas to the Final Four last season as a sophomore and was SI's college player of the year. He is expected to be among the top 10 picks in the June 26 NBA draft.
Leo: "He was a quiet kid, always trying to give someone else the limelight. If the parents of a friend were at a game, he'd try to make his friend look good. He's still that way. If you teach them to do the right things, everything falls into place."
T.J.: "He was tough when I was growing up, but I respect him. He prepared me for everything I have faced."