OAKLAND – The emotions had yet to sink in for Barry Zito as he addressed reporters late Saturday afternoon.
All he could draw upon were isolated mental snapshots from a day that he never dreamed would happen in the first place.
The stats weren’t pretty for the A’s lefty in a game that served as a ceremonial swan song for him and Giants right-hander Tim Hudson. What Zito will take from Oakland’s 14-10 loss is the mutual love and appreciation he felt from his teammates and a sold-out Coliseum crowd.
After sitting out the entire 2014 season and then toiling through an entire year in Triple-A ball for the A’s this season, he relished the chance to make one more major league start in the ballpark where he first rose to stardom.
“When I had last pitched in the major leagues (in 2013), I thought there may never be another time on the field, let alone for Oakland A’s,” Zito said. “That was just so special to be out there and have those fans give me some love.”
What an odd way the events played out in the highly anticipated matchup of the “Big Three” A’s pitching alums. The standing ovations for Zito and Hudson (four each) outnumbered the innings they combined to pitch (3 1/3). Zito’s off-speed stuff did little to fool the Giants as he allowed four runs over two-plus innings. Hudson’s command completely deserted him, as he forced in two runs with bases-loaded walks, hit another batter for a third run and lasted just 1 1/3 innings.
As fans from both teams stood and cheered for a curtain call before the third inning, Hudson at first seemed an unwilling participant.
“It's a weird situation,” he said. “I had just come out of the game, I didn't do too well. But you know, there comes a time in this game where the moments are a little bigger than the games and performances. The fans are awesome here. … Classy moment for the fans, and something Zito and I both will appreciate forever.”
The 40-year-old Hudson, who plans to retire after this season, had the support of his Giants teammates, who took the field for batting practice wearing No. 17 jerseys with his name. The A’s had Zito’s back, as all players wore their pants hiked up high to near knee-level just as the lefty does.
Pitcher Jesse Chavez texted catcher Stephen Vogt with a message Friday night – “High socks everybody, tomorrow. Spread the word.”
When Zito finished his warm-up tosses in the bullpen, he got surprised. “It was awesome. I turned around and the whole bullpen, 15 guys, all had their socks up.”
Vogt even talked A’s manager Bob Melvin into hiking up his pants before he walked out to the mound to take Zito out of the game in the top of the third, after Zito issued a leadoff walk to Buster Posey.
Considering Zito had just one inning of relief under his belt since his call-up to Oakland on Sept. 16, Melvin said had a pitch count of around 50 in mind. Zito was at 48 pitches when he left. Melvin made a point of pulling Zito in the middle of an inning, so the crowd could acknowledge him, then handed Zito the game ball and told him to drink in the moment.
Melvin said he certainly got caught up in the electric atmosphere inside the Coliseum.
“It was amazing,” he said. “You really had to kind of take a step back afterward and get refocused into the game because there was so much emotion that was part of that. It was really cool.”
Count Vogt as another person who relished the experience Saturday. He was born in Visalia and grew up a huge Bay Area baseball fan.
“I’ve never nodded at a pitcher before the game started, but I felt like Huddy -- I wanted to show him a little bit of respect -- and I nodded at him before my first at-bat,” Vogt said. “It was just an honor to be on the same field as them.”
Zito, who said he didn’t feel his stuff was as bad as his stats showed, said he’d like to pitch again if he’s needed on the A’s season-ending six-game road trip that begins Monday. He’s leaning heavily toward retiring after the season.
Considering he was so focused on pitching Saturday, he’s looking forward to Sunday, when he, Hudson and Mark Mulder – the third component of the “Big Three” – will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
“The Bay Area is such an intimate part of my journey in life,” Zito said. “… I can really appreciate everything that today was as kind of a transplanted Northern California guy. It’s pretty special. It’s just amazing it all lined up the way it did.”