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Balanced Zito lives for much more than baseball

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Barry Zito is what you'd call a Renaissance man.

Zito is many things: a musician and songwriter, an actor, an avid proponent of yoga and a philanthropist.

He's also a starting pitcher for the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

"Music has been part of my family my whole life," Zito explained. "My mother and my father worked for Nat King Cole back in the '60s, so everyone in my family has musical gifts. I like to focus on that when I'm not on the field."

Zito hinted at a post-baseball music career in Los Angeles, where he lives in the offseason.

"Being in Los Angeles and having lots of contacts, it would be nice to start writing songs -- not so much performing, but being more of a songwriter."

Zito also "used to mess around with things" in the TV business, playing himself on several shows. But the entertainment industry is definitely not Zito's only post-baseball career option. He's also passionate about his charity work.

"My passion is taking care of wounded Marines who have come back from the war -- men and women from Iraq, Afghanistan," Zito said. "We raised a lot of money through baseball and Major League players, and [we're] getting different players to take care of them when they are in the hospital. Help their families out and pay for child care so they can recover with their family members next to them.

"I wanted to see baseball get behind our troops. When we started our foundation, [Strikeouts for Troops], there was not really any public support for anybody. I think everyone was so focused on being against the war that they were also against the troops! We were about getting baseball and the military kind of linked up, which are two major institutions in this country."

Zito's also one of the first MLB players to start doing yoga as part of a workout routine.

"I started doing yoga in '98, and it's gotten a lot more popular in the last five years in sports," Zito said. "But [back then], people would give me funny looks. But now, a lot of those same people have turned to yoga, I think."

Some might call Zito and his array of talents and hobbies a bit offbeat.

"You know, I just think there are a lot of times we're looked at in a myopic way, just focused on complete baseball," Zito explained. "Yet everyone has interests that help them be a rounded person. And just because mine are not video games or golf doesn't mean that I'm any different than anyone else."

Maybe not -- if you subtract the American League Cy Young Award, three All-Star appearances and those two World Series rings.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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