SAN FRANCISCO -- Spending a few days around the San Francisco Giants during the playoffs begs the question: Is Barry Zito friends with everyone?
Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it seems that everyone who had anything to do with the peripheral events surrounding the first two games of the World Series in San Francisco somehow had a Zito connection. First-pitch throwers. Celebrities hanging out during batting practice. And, most recently, anthem singers.
On Thursday, the anthem was performed by Matthew Morrison, star of the hit FOX show "Glee." Morrison is a terrific singer, a big baseball fan and, perhaps most notably, a FOB -- Friend of Barry.
Turns out, the two are as close as brothers. They hang out often. Zito's wife and Morrison's girlfriend are best friends.
This sounds serious, folks.
"We're the same about our professions -- ultra-competitive, hard on ourselves," Morrison said. "I have so much more interest in games when he pitches. I know his wife, his family."
Morrison is becoming quite a veteran of singing the anthem at big-time sporting events. In fact, he has two performances under his belt during the current postseason. He sang before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis, which perhaps not so coincidentally was the same game that Zito shut down the Cardinals and helped start a three-game winning streak for the Giants en route to the NL pennant.
That event, from a singer's standpoint, could only be topped by one thing: a gig at the World Series.
"It's great," Morrison said. "I'm so honored to be asked to do this. I was really happy to sing at the NLCS, but to perform at the World Series ... it's a big deal."
Morrison also appreciates the event from a player's standpoint.
"During the regular season, Major League Baseball players are going to work, pretty much," he said. "But you get to this stage, and the stakes are higher -- this is what they dreamed about since they were children."
The pregame ceremony, and the entire evening at AT&T Park, was dedicated to veterans and military families as MLB highlighted its Welcome Back Veterans initiative.
Baseball veterans who served during World War II -- including Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, legendary broadcaster Bob Wolff and former All-Star and legendary broadcaster Jerry Coleman -- were recognized.
Launched in 2008 by Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Welcome Back Veterans has awarded more than $13 million in grants to nonprofit agencies targeting returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' and their families' greatest needs, focusing on treatment and research of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Marine corporal Nick Kimmel, who lost both legs and an arm in an explosion in Afghanistan on December 2011, walked to the mound on his new prosthetic legs and, escorted by Zito, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The night had its lighter moments, as well. Actor Colin Hanks, a die-hard Giants fan, and, presumably, a FOB, has been everywhere pledging his allegiance to his team -- on Twitter, at the MLB FanCave and on the field during batting practice. The actor led the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.