Benjamin Thomas Zobrist, (born May 26, 1981), is an American baseball player currently with Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays. A switch-hitter who throws right-handed, he has exhibited a versatility to play most positions with the exception of pitcher and catcher. He has been the starting second baseman in 2009. Besides Zo, Zoby and Benny-Zo, he is also known by the nickname Zorilla, given to him by Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Zobrist grew up in Eureka, Illinois, raised by his parents Tom and Cindi. He loved playing baseball since he was 8, so much so that he and his friends built their own wiffle ball field behind his house. After no pro scouts or college recruiters looked at him when he graduated, he thought baseball was over for him. "Baseball was not even a thought in my mind," Zobrist said, "When I was done with my last high school game, I was driving around town just thinking I'm done with baseball the rest of my life." Despite this, Zobrist's high school coach encouraged him to go the annual event that showcased seniors in Peoria each summer. He played in the showcase, and was given an offer by Olivet Nazarene University. In his time at Olivet, he pitched and also played at shortstop and second. He transferred to Dallas Baptist University for his senior year, where he played shortstop.
Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 6th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft. He and right-handed pitcher Mitch Talbot were traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman/designated hitter Aubrey Huff and cash on July 12, 2006. Zobrist was the team's starting shortstop through his first couple seasons with them.
He struggled through parts of the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Rays. One day he met a swing mechanic looking for students. The swing coach was able to help Zobrist, and it was evident to the rays during the 2008 season. "He added the power component," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, "He became a lot more physical."
For the most part, Zobrist was used as a right fielder and a back-up shortstop during the 2008 season. In certain situations where a fifth infielder was needed, he or BJ Upton (a former infielder himself) would be moved in from the outfield during the season. Zobrist went to his first World Series as a player with the Rays in 2008. His versatility was showcased during Game 3 of the 2008 World Series against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies when he came in as part of a double switch to play right field. However, Zobrist initially played unusually shallow, in essence becoming a fifth infielder.
Zobrist was placed in right field for the beginning of the 2009 season, and has since been made the starting second baseman after teammate Akinori Iwamura was injured. Currently, Zobrist has hit 3 grand slams this season, leading the Rays, and is among the league leaders in home runs and slugging percentage. He earned himself a trip to his first All Star Game in St. Louis in 2009.
Ben Zobrist lives in Tennessee with his wife, Christian singer Julianna Zobrist and their son, Zion Benjamin, who was born on February 1, 2009. Zobrist is a former counselor for Camp of Champions USA, a Christian camp. He used Christian rap artist TobyMac's song "Ignition" as his entrance song during the 2008 and start of the 2009 season. He currently uses a song by his wife as his entrance music.
Zobrist often talks about his Christian faith, and how God helped him realize that he was supposed to play baseball. "I just felt like everything fell into place so much, that this is what I was supposed to do," Zobrist said, "This is what I was made to do." He often mentions during interviews how blessed he has been through his baseball career. He and fellow Christian teammate Gabe Gross have talked about how they organize Bible studies with their teammates. St. Pete Times writer Mark Topkin wrote how Zobrist does this with his teammates, saying Zobrist "doesn't judge or proselytize, refraining from forcing his beliefs on anyone, though willing to get involved if asked." Zobrist also chooses not to smoke, drink, or do drugs.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Schwarz, Alan. "For Rays' Zobrist, Versatility Meets Opportunity," The New York Times, Sunday, July 19, 2009.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Topkin, Mark. "Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist has taken a surprising path to today's All-Star Game" St. Petersburg Times, Tuesday, July 14, 2009
- ↑ Franklin´s Ben Zobrist earns spot as All Star reserve
- ↑ Ben and Julianna Zobrist Welcome Son Zion Benjamin Celebrity Baby Blog, February 12, 2009
- ↑ Piniat, Elaine. "Former AIA Player Makes it to the 'Big Leagues'," Athletes in Action, Thursday, June 25, 2009.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
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