During the hard times Zito received every suggestion imaginable from fans: Let your hair grow. Go surfing. Wear your socks higher. Wear your socks lower. Burn a sage stick to rid the clubhouse of negative energy. Bathe your hands in white light (whatever that means). A few correspondents suggested drugs, and not the performance-enhancing kind. Dear Barry—I'm the guy who implored you to smoke the ganja. Well it must have worked, as your game has come around, giving us something to look forward to instead of dreading. Keep up the good work.
As for how to keep his new mojo, one admirer suggests a musical quest abroad. This offseason, you, your guitar, Asia. Just travel and play. It'll cleanse you and keep your pitching in tune.
Then there are the fans who claim they never hopped off his bandwagon. Hey Z—It was a rough coupla years, glad the tide has changed. I knew it would. Now everybody loves ya, not just your stalker. Kidding. I kid. I'm a kidder. (Somebody call security.)
Maybe Zito gets so much fan feedback, in good times and bad, because he's always presented himself as a free thinker who's open to alternative ideas. There is a certain powerlessness to being a fan, and making a suggestion to a favorite athlete, however unlikely he is to follow it, at least creates a possibility of affecting the outcome. So the fans keep writing because they have to, and Zito reads selectively because he has to. He fulfills autograph requests but doesn't often reply to the messages themselves.
Last week in the Giants' clubhouse Zito reached into his locker and pulled out his BlackBerry, on which he had saved a quote from author Richard Bach. "'Anybody who's ever mattered, anybody who's ever been happy, anybody who's ever given any gift to the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest, no exceptions,'" Zito read. "People might take that the wrong way, but I think it's completely true."
In other words, Justin, Barry Zito has no intention of being crappy again, and the best way for him to avoid it is to forget you mentioned it.
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