Athletics

Barry Zito returns to Oakland feeling like new person after MLB career

Barry Zito returns to Oakland feeling like new person after MLB career

OAKLAND – Back in 2002, Barry Zito seemed to have it all. Money, fame, athletic success.

Zito had just won the American League Cy Young Award at the young age of 24. He should've been the happiest person in the world. But instead, he felt empty.

Now, 17 years later, the former A's and Giants pitcher feels like a brand new person.

"I don't identify with my accomplishments anymore," Zito told NBC Sports California. "If I pitched well, I was a good person. If I didn't pitch well, I was a terrible person. And that was really how I viewed the game for so many years. I finally detached from that."

Zito lives in Nashville, Tenn. with his wife and two children and has a new life as a professional musician. He also just wrote a book, called Curveball, which comes out later this year. It details his path to happiness following baseball.

"It's really about chasing fame and money and all of those things that we were raised to think were going to fulfill us and make us happy," Zito said. "I'm just trying to tell a real vulnerable story through baseball experiences and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow didn't really exist. Yeah, financially I'm comfortable and all that, but really, the things that we think are going to make us happy don't. I'm just trying to give people a very raw look behind the scenes at the darkness that really ensued when I started to take myself too seriously, take my career too seriously. 

"A lot of things that we're taught in American culture – go out and be successful and be famous and be on the cover of Us Weekly, right? Because those are the people we want to be like. But man, it's an empty thing going on. So it was a lot of fun being able to tell that story."

Zito was back in Oakland on Monday, teaming up with Energy Upgrade California for Earth Day. He led the Coliseum in an "unplugged" rendition of the national anthem – no microphones or video boards – to demonstrate how Bay Area residents can conserve energy by doing their part.

"We're just inspiring people to do some little things that probably will not make a huge impact in their personal life," Zito said. "Change some lightbulbs to LEDs or replace those HVAC return vents that I didn't know about when I was playing because I was not handy, but I'm learning now how to take those vents out. ... Wash your clothes in cold water. Things like that just save a little bit of energy and it all adds up. I just want to keep California golden."

Despite his struggles to find happiness throughout his playing days, Zito still cherishes the Coliseum memories he and his teammates created.

"The ballpark brings everything back," he said. "I guess it was almost 20 years ago now, which is crazy. ... Those memories are still fresh in my head. Going down on the field and seeing those guys warm up and hit batting practice, all the good vibes come back. I miss this place."

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But Zito stresses he has left baseball in the rearview mirror. He is living a new life now and loves every moment of it.

"I'm pretty detached from most of sports in general," Zito said. "I don't watch a lot of baseball, I don't watch a lot of TV or hear a lot of news, unfortunately. I'm kind of in my cave where it's family and music, and that's about my whole life. But I love the way it is."

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse is making a whole lot of noise with the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators. 

The infielder was named to MLB.com's Prospect Team of the Week on Monday after hitting .500 with two home runs over a six-game span.

Neuse had his nine-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Prior to that, the 24-year-old was on fire at the plate. 

Neuse, the A's No. 9 prospect, hit .623 with three homers over his nine-game hitting streak. 

Though Neuse has the talent to join a long list of A's prospect who could make their major-league debut this season, it will be hard to find a spot for him on the big-league roster. Neuse's primary position is third base, and that's clearly locked up with star-in-the-making Matt Chapman.

He does have experience at a few other spots, however. 

While Neuse has played 64 games at the hot corner this season, he's also played two games at second base and four innings in left field, the first time he's put on an outfielder's glove in his minor league career. There has to be a place for his bat, though. 

[RELATED: Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split]

Neuse has hit at every level so far as a minor leaguer. He's batting .318 with a .928 OPS and 11 home runs this season. Since being picked by the Nationals in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Neuse owns a .290 batting average with a .787 OPS and 33 career homers. 

Neuse is not yet on the A's 40-man roster. For now, he'll have to keep doing what he's doing in Las Vegas -- hit, and then hit some more.

Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split, anxious for road trip

Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split, anxious for road trip

The Rays were the team to beat -- and not just for the A's who split the series against the team in Oakland after an 8-2 loss on Sunday.

Brett Anderson received starting honors, but his stuff wasn't what it has been recently and skipper Bob Melvin even said during his postgame press conference that it was the first time all season he believed Anderson didn't have his best showing.

"It's frustrating from my end we could've taken a series from a team ahead of us, but I don't really dwell on it too much," Anderson told the media scrum following his outing. 

The A's put up a heck of a fight, earning the split against a Tampa team that is off to a hot start, but they're eager to get back out on the road and create better numbers away from the Coliseum.

"You always want to play above .500 at home -- we did that and you know, it could have been a lot better," Melvin told the media. "You go out on the road -- couple tough games in St. Louis and then we got four more in our division so the guys are looking forward to getting out and trying to climb up on .500 more so than we are right now."

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Following the Cardinals' series, the team has a four-game stint against the Angels in Anaheim.