Former pro baseball pitcher Barry Zito has spent the past few years focusing on his music career. Just last week, he released a cover of the Kenny Rogers track “The Greatest.” Now, it turns out millions of TV viewers have been listening to Zito perform this spring.
Zito was the latest star to be unmasked on the hit Fox reality competition series, having been disguised as the Rhino. (Scroll to the bottom of this story to watch the video of his unmasking.)
“I grew up in a musical family and I always wanted to write songs and produce songs,” Zito told Variety. “So when I landed in Nashville at the end of my career, I went right into songwriting and I really started hitting the co writing on music real hard for a few years. That was incredibly a learning experience for me.”
Zito released an EP in 2017, and has been regularly writing and co-writing songs. But “The Masked Singer” still presented a new challenge: “I thought wow, this is really scary and I don’t really feel like singing on a stage in a costume, that feels like something that’s so far out of my comfort zone. But I know that I’ve always had my biggest transformations personally when I am uncomfortable.”
Adding to that stress, the Rhino costume was perhaps one of the most difficult to sing in. “I could only see the ground,” he said “There was two little quarter-size nostrils of the Rhino that I could see in but I couldn’t really navigate through there. Also the mask was really front heavy, because it was a huge Rhino. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve never sang and danced before, I’ve only ever sang with an acoustic guitar, sitting on a stool. My first couple of days were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into here? This is incredibly difficult.'”
For his final performance, Zito performed “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw on Wednesday night’s episode. Past songs included “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” by Righteous Brothers and “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson. Zito said he was pleasantly surprised that he got as far as he did — to Season 3’s final four.
“I just wanted to keep my head down and do my best every time and not get so caught up in winning,” he said. “These are lessons I’ve learned in my baseball career. When I became so result oriented and focused on things that I couldn’t control, like winning or outcomes, it really spoiled the experience for me. My goal really was to go out there and not get eliminated on the first show. When I made it through first show, that was a huge victory for me.”
Zito’s identity was kept a secret until panelist Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg made it one of her guesses a few weeks ago, and the athlete said he heard from plenty of former teammates who had also figured it out.
“Eric Byrnes, who I played with in Oakland, he’s still a good friend. His kids watch the show religiously so he texted me a couple weeks ago,” Zito said. “And he was like, ‘dude. You’re killing it on TV.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'”
As for the panel guesses, Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg and Ken Jeong named Zito, Nicole Scherzinger thought it was Jason Aldean, guest panelist Jay Pharoah picked Blake Shelton and Robin Thicke thought it was Trace Adkins.
“I was just flattered to have people like Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, Sam Hunt and Blake Shelton, names thrown out there,” Zito said. “Other names like David Hasselhoff, Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow. These are all super entertaining, they’re guessing these things and I’m in the costume, just laughing onstage when they’re throwing these names out.”
Now that he’s been revealed on “The Masked Singer,” Zito said he’s coming out with some music later this year “that is different sonically, a little more electronic, a little more poppy, but still with that songwriting heartbeat underneath. I’m super excited to really have more control sonically of what’s happening.”
Besides Zito, so far this season, Lil Wayne, Drew Carey, Chaka Khan, Tony Hawk, Dionne Warwick, Tom Bergeron, Sarah Palin, Bella Thorne, JoJo Siwa, Rob Gronkowski, Jordyn Woods, Bret Michaels, Hunter Hayes and Jackie Evancho have all been revealed.
Now three celebrities head into next week’s season finale: Turtle, Frog and Night Angel.
Here’s a recap of this week’s contestants and their performances on Wednesday:
Night Angel’s song: “How To Love,” by Lil Wayne
Night Angel clues: Football, soccer ball, moon pin. “I’m the night angel because several years ago someone close to me passed. Losing that person is a constant reminder to me that tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
Panel guesses: Dawn Robinson from En Vogue; Ciara; Kandi Burruss
Turtle’s song: “Jealous,” by Nick Jonas
Turtle clue: Photo album; “back,” ring. “As an artist I was so pigeonholed. I never felt comfortable about stepping outside my wheelhouse. I’m more versatile than people know.”
Panel guesses: Kevin Richardson of Backstreet Boys; Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys; Justin Guarini
Frog’s song: “Hip Hop Hooray,” by Naughty by Nature
Frog clue: Hat; basketball; hair rollers; “mom” pin. “I can be smooth, I can be silly. I can sing and dance all at once! It’s a whole different ballgame. I’m literally redefining who I am to the world, and that is like a slamdunk.”
Panel guesses: Chance the Rapper; Bow Wow; Lil’ Fizz
Here’s a first look at Zito as he’s unmasked as the Rhino: