Carlos Alberto Zambrano was born on June 1, 1981 to parents Saulo and Nora in the Cumboto II neighborhood, which is part of the Puerto Cabello area in Carabobo, Venezuela. Growing up Zambrano did not stand out as a potential baseball prospect. However, one day he impressed Julio Figueroa, a pitching coach, who then agreed to help Z train. With his help, he was able to improve enough to get a major league tryout. Julio arranged a tryout for the 15 year-old Carlos with the Chicago Cubs on February 27, 1997 in Puerto Cabello. His first tryout was unsuccessful as the Cubs said that he had poor mechanics and needed to improve significantly. Carlos kept at it and soon had a tryout with the Toronto Blue Jays, who eventually agreed to let him train at their facility in Barquisimeto. Zambrano remained at the academy, succeeded, and was later interviewed by the team. In the interview, Toronto said that they would sign Carlos for $5,000 because they were not sure if he would develop as a ball player. Julio, who had accompanied Z, responded that he was worth $300,000, and that they were leaving. Toronto had blown their shot to sign Big Z.
Carlos had a number of tryouts with other teams, including the Diamondback, who said that he was a good pitcher, but that they could not afford to pay him. Eventually, Carlos got in contact with Alberto Rondon, the chief of the Cubs academy, who had not seen Z pitch previously. He agreed to give Zambrano another chance with the Cubs. He said that Carlos could stay at the Cubs academy for a month, and if he was successful, he would take him to the United States to sign. He handed Carlos a baseball glove and a number 21 jersey and told him "Welcome to the Chicago Cubs." Carlos got his visa and passport, and on July 7, 1997, he boarded an airplane with Rondon to the United States. After a stop in Miami, they arrived in Arizona. On July 24, Carlos Zambrano signed with the Chicago Cubs for $130,000.
Early in his career, it was tough for Carlos to adapt to the United States, and he often missed home. When he married his wife Ismari, she accompained him to US, which made it easier on him. Carlos bounced around the minors for a number of years and was finally called up to the Cubs on August 20, 2001. After a couple of rough outings he was sent back to the minors. However, the next year, he was called back up to the majors and remained there for good as a soon established himself as an important part of the Cubs rotation. By 2003, he began to dominate the major leagues and helped the Cubs get the closest in 58 years to a World Series. In 2004, he made his first All-Star team and won 16 games for the Cubs with a career best 2.75 ERA. He added another 14 wins in 2005, as well as a league high 16 in 2006 as he made his second All-Star team. Zambrano also pitched for his home country, Venezuela, in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Carlos helped the Cubs make the playoffs in 2007 and 2008 by posting win totals of 18 and 14 games. In 2008, he also made his third All-Star team and pitched a no-hitter on September 14, the first for the Cubs in 36 years. In 2009, Zambrano got injured and had a down year and only posted 9 wins. He got off to a poor start in 2010 and was even put in the bullpen for a while. Still, Carlos pulled through and went 8-0 with a 1.41 in his last 11 starts to end the season. In 2010, Carlos also started his own charity, the Big Z Foundation, which aims to help underprivileged children and families in third world countries and specific Chicago communities. While Zambrano has had his ups and downs in his career, one thing is for sure, he has worked hard and accomplished his dreams.
His nicknames include Big Z and El Toro, the Bull.
The first team he played for was called Carisma.
His favorite activities as a child included soccer, baseball, with a sock as a ball, and eventually video games.
He meet his wife Ismari as a teen through a church-oriented group called the Royal Rangers.
His favorite players growing up were Wilson Alvarez in Venezuela and Roger Clemens.
He wore number 67 in the minors.