OAKLAND — Barry Zito was happy to wear a throwback A’s black jersey from the 2000’s, as a special guest for Saturday’s “Turn Back The Clock” festivities at the Coliseum.
“That’s the coolest uniform in baseball,” he declared.
Though his familiar No. 75 was on his back, Zito pointed out that when he was first called up to Oakland in 2000 he wore No. 53.
“I actually never wore ’75’ in the black because that was my first year and then they canned it,” he said. (The A’s brought back a different version of the black jersey later in the decade that was a favorite of lefty Gio Gonzalez).
Regardless of his number Saturday, the 2002 Cy Young winner was thrilled to be back at the Coliseum to throw out the first pitch to his former catcher, Ramon Hernandez, who was also in attendance with his family.
“We had such a chemistry as the battery back then,” Zito said. “I didn’t have to shake (to a different pitch), ever. He just put down what I felt like throwing. It’s pretty rare when you can get in sync to that level.”
But Zito also recalled, with a laugh, a game in 2012 when he was with the Giants and Hernandez was on the Rockies, and some Giants pitchers thought Hernandez was stealing signs.
“I remember I came up to the plate and he was catching and he said, ‘Why are you guys so mad at me right now?’,” Zito said. “I was like ‘Stop stealing signs dude.’”
Zito was amazed at how many familiar faces he saw in the stands Saturday, particularly the diehards who sit along the railing as players enter the field from the clubhouse. One longtime A’s fan presented him with a picture of himself from the day he made his major league debut.
“I’m probably gonna take that home and frame that,” Zito said.
The fan giveaway Saturday was a bobblehead featuring Zito and former A’s shortstop Miguel Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP.
The A’s announced they’ve agreed to terms with four more draft picks, including second rounder Greg Deichmann, an outfielder from LSU, and third round shortstop Nick Allen from Francis Parker High School in San Diego. Allen was considered a first-round talent by many but he was committed to USC and considered a tough sign. The A’s went way over slot and gave him a $2 million bonus, according to mlb.com’s Jonathan Mayo. Allen was the 81st overall pick, which came with a slot bonus of $697,500, meaning the A’s had to get creative and sign some of their other high picks to bonuses that came in under slot.