Barry Zito

Rickey Henderson helped convince Barry Zito to accept a minor league assignment

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Barry Zito’s comeback with the A’s fell a bit short of him making the team out of spring training. But the A’s still wanted him and sent him to Triple-A Nashville. As a veteran with his tenure, his money and his particular¬†career path, you wouldn’t have been crazy to think that he’d say thanks but no thanks and retreat to one of his multiple California estates to drink wine and enjoy time with his family rather than pitch to guys 15 years younger than him in the Tennessee humidity.

But he is going to Nashville. And as John Shea writes in the Chronicle, it has a lot to do with the words spoken by and the example set by Rickey Henderson. Words about how baseball is fun and how having a positive attitude despite setbacks can be the difference between Zito coming back to the majors or not. The example of playing in independent ball despite already having a ticket punched to the Hall of Fame and all of the money he’d ever need.

If you’re of a certain age you remember a time when Rickey Henderson was thought of as a selfish, arrogant player who didn’t give a crap about anything. Did age change Rickey or did everyone have him wrong back in the day?