By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
#RallyZito. What started as a simple hashtag on twitter spread beyond the San Francisco Giants fanbase and even made its way onto the FOX broadcast of the National League Championship Series.
Giants starter Barry Zito had the game of his career in a San Francisco uniform. Even he couldn’t deny the significance of his performance in Game 5. Zito’s accomplishments in the postseason as part of the Oakland A’s has always followed him throughout his tenure on the Giants, but finally he can tout his outing in Game 5 of the NLCS as one to remember—ranking it as “No. 1” because he did it as a Giant.
As Zito pitched 7.2 innings of scoreless ball, one of the more impressive stats is that he did not walk a St. Louis Cardinals batter except for Pete Kozma, whom he walked intentionally. Also impressive was Zito’s first career bunt single, which resulted in an RBI for the pitcher.
San Francisco evaded elimination due mainly to Zito’s commanding arm with some help from the defense behind him. When it was all said and done, the Giants were headed home after beating St. Louis 5-0.
Throughout the inspiring show by the left-hander, San Francisco Giants fans flooded Twitter with “#RallyZito” tweets.
There are a number of tweeters claiming ownership of the idea of the trendy hashtag, including a group of three friends who say it began with a conversation about changing their Twitter icons.
“During the NLDS, a handful of us on Twitter had used rally avatars of a particularly funny shot of Freddy Sanchez looking like a ghost behind Hunter Pence and Buster Posey in the dugout, but after dropping two games in St. Louis, I thought maybe it was time to change it up,” Giants fan Britt Huber of Brentwood, Calif. explained. “I asked on Twitter whether anyone had a suggestion of a new rally image. Adrian [Perez] suggested the picture he ended up using and it went from there with everyone finding their favorite pictures of Zito to use.”
Following Game 4, a number of fans began changing their Twitter icons to various pictures (the more silly, the better) of Zito—Zito stretching, Zito modeling, Zito singing, Zito with a wig, even Zito in just a shirt and boxer briefs.
In addition to the pictures, fans began to add “#RallyZito” to their tweets. Twitter user “@DatKaren” is listed as using the hashtag first, but Huber and Jen Mac Ramos of East Oakland, Calif. credit Perez for starting the use of the hashtag and Zito picture combination.
“It sounds a bit obvious, but it was a sort of rally call,” Perez states. “I never really thought it would spread beyond my followers, it was just meant to be almost like an inside joke—a source of camaraderie.”
While the hashtag source is disputed, the effects of #RallyZito have been unavoidable. “When I saw that people that I follow who didn’t follow me back were changing their pictures to Zito, I knew this was going to be a thing,” Perez said. “I was notified that KNBR callers were talking about the hashtag and it dawned on me that it was probably going to hit critical mass.”
Twitter was inundated with Zito pictures, postgame interviews referenced the movement, and national writers included the hashtag in their articles and tweets.
Though Huber, Ramos, and Perez all admit that they had their doubts about Zito in the past, they, as well as a big part of the Giants fanbase, knew that Zito was capable of what he displayed in Game 5.
As scoreless inning after scoreless inning was thrown by Zito, more tweets swarmed the Internet in support of #RallyZito. Fans who have never met were united through a simple humorous gesture.
“It was a good distraction from stressing out over the game all day,” Huber said. “I think it definitely made us all feel a bit more connected, though, and introduced people to other fans they didn’t know before.”
Despite the popularity of #RallyZito, the pitcher claims he was unaware of what was happening.
“I tried Twitter a couple of years ago and it was a pretty devastating experience for me [laughter],” Zito said after the game. “I got off Twitter. I’m excited that the fans are fired up and they’re going to bring all that momentum into the stadium these next two games here. So I’m just happy for the team and happy that the fans get to see us back at AT&T Park.”
And no one will be surprised if Mr. Zito will be greeted with a warm ovation from the #RallyZito crowd who believed he would do exactly what he did in Game 5—saved the team from elimination and extended their postseason.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.