Chicago Cubs second-baseman Ben Zobrist hopes to set a good example for his teammates and fans both on and off the field.
Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs kneels on the field during batting practice before Game 6 of the 2016 World Series in Cleveland. Rob Tringali | MLB Photos | Getty Images
Baseball lovers can’t stop talking about Game 7 of the World Series, the final matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, scheduled for tonight. (In case, ya know, you don’t follow America’s pastime.) Nor can they stop talking about Game 6, which gave second baseman Ben Zobrist another moment to shine. While there’s understandably a lot of chatter about the game, we can’t help but focus on Zobrist’s faith. Though baseball players are both glorified and mocked for their superstitions, Zobrist seems to stand more on the Angels in the Outfield side of things. This is a man who believes big-time and he’s not ashamed to admit it.
Even before Zobrist won a World Series title with the Kansas City Royals last year, he talked openly about his Christian faith. Definitely not in a preachy way, though. He knows he’s not perfect.
“The biggest thing is, I’m still learning,” said Zobrist in a 2013 interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I still have a lot to learn about what the love of Christ is like—that it’s not just knowledge … but it’s allowing the truth to change you—allowing Christ’s message of grace and hope and love through the cross, that that message is the message that changes the way we look at everything in our lives.”
Zobrist has even co-authored a book about his faith and athletic career with his wife Julianna Zobrist, an accomplished Christian musician, and best-selling author Mike Yorkey. It’s called Double Play: Faith And Family First and was released in 2014, when Zobrist played for the Tampa Bay Rays.
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In the book’s intro, Zobrist writes about how he uses his wife’s music for his walk-up song instead of something with a more “manly kind of feel with growly vocals.” He explains that he loves giving his wife another outlet to share her “God-given gift for music to impact others,” just as he uses his “God-given talent on the baseball field.”
Julianna said that when the couple, who now has two children, met on Instant Messenger (Yup! Remember that?) in 2001, it wasn’t just his looks that attracted her to him. There was an element of faith, of being on the same page philosophically, that mattered to her.
“Of course we were attracted to each other but it was more than that,” she told The Tampa Bay Times in 2014. “It was a lot of prayer and heavy leaning on my heart. I loved the way that he was so thoughtful. Our conversations were always purposeful. I felt safe with him. It was that way from the beginning.”
|We know that as a Christian athlete, people are watching, and so we want to be the best example we can be and show that we are different–that Christ has changed our lives.|
In fact, Zobrist’s faith goes way back to his childhood. The son of a pastor, he expected to attend Bible college and follow in his father’s footsteps. He wasn’t much of a baseball star as a child, but when he was encouraged to attend a tryout camp in his late teens, his entire direction changed. While Zobrist did attend a Christian college (two in fact, transferring from Olivet Nazarene to Dallas Baptist), he obviously took up a bat rather than a bible—and on a scholarship, no less.
“I always tell people keep pushing forward and God will close doors and open doors as you move along,” said Tom Zobrist, Ben’s father, in a 2015 interview with The Kansas City Star, explaining that his family never hired video professionals to help Ben win a scholarship. “We did absolutely nothing, and it just came.”
Zobrist hopes to set a good example not only for his fellow Christians, but his teammates and fans, Christian and non-Christian alike.
“We know that as a Christian athlete, people are watching, and so we want to be the best example we can be and show that we are different–that Christ has changed our lives,” he told FCA. “But at the same time, I want people to know that grace is for everyone. We all need grace. We all need Christ.”
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