(left to right, Sally and Joe Zito, pic taken from the Sally Zito Project’s MySpace page)

Barry Zito’s father, Joe, a former arranger for Nat King Cole, is profiled by the New York Times’ Lee Jenkins. While the elder Zito didn’t quite grasp his son’s likely career path right away (œI never even knew that baseball teams had scouts who went out and watched players and tried to sign them, Zito said. œI didn™t understand why they would do that,”) once he figured it out, he became a very hands-on, if untraditional stage dad.

Barry was the rare college baseball player who did yoga poses on the outfield grass and meditated before games, all part of his typical routine.

œHe was a deep kid, said Alan Jaeger, who has helped train Barry for the past 10 years. œHe would always ask, ˜Why do we do it this way?™ or ˜What if we did it that way?™ He™s like a professor. There are yoga poses I have changed because of Barry.

Like Joe, Jaeger believes that the best way to strengthen a young arm is to use it. At U.S.C., Barry would stand at home plate and throw balls off the center-field fence. Coaches feared he was abusing his arm. Joe felt he was building it up.

Joe sought out Rick Langford, a minor league pitching coach with the Toronto Blue Jays, whose throwing program was advertised in a magazine. Joe called the Blue Jays, asked for Rick, and spoke with him for nearly two hours.

Only at the end of the conversation did Joe realize that he had not been talking to Rick Langford. He had been talking to a guy named Rick Peterson, the minor league pitching coordinator. When Barry went off to the Cape Cod League, he arranged a meeting with Peterson in the parking lot at Edison High School in Edison, N.J. They worked out together in the rain, using a line in the parking lot as a pitching rubber.

When they were finished, they crossed the street to a library and spent hours analyzing Barry™s motion. According to Joe, Peterson told him: œIt was magical.