Tampa Bay Rays player talks faith

By Lauren Stancle, Claire Scmidt, and Samuel Culliado, Staff Writers

From a wiffle ball field he built with friends in his backyard to being on the MLB All-Star team twice, Ben Zobrist has vastly improved since childhood.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Zobrist began his collegiate career when he first went to an annual event that showcases high school seniors in Peoria, Illinois. There Olivet gave him an offer.

At Olivet, Zobrist pitched and also played at shortstop and second until his senior year, when he transferred to Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. There he played shortstop. Finishing his collegiate career, he  also played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Summer Collegiate Northwood League—a collegiate summer baseball league made up of top college players from North America—in  2003.

Drafted by the Houston Astros in the sixth round of the 2004 amateur draft, Zobrist played with the Houston, Texas-based team from 2004 until he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, according to baseball-reference.com.

Zobrist had his MLB debut on Aug. 1, 2006. Playing for the Tampa Bay Rays based out of Florida, he played as a shortstop for the first two seasons and then was switched around to various positions–second base, shortstop, and right fielder.

So far, his career statistics include 1,016 hits, 114 home runs, and 511 runs batted in. In addition, his batting average (number of hits divided by at bats) is .264; the all-time league average is between .260 and .275.

Recently on Sept. 10, 2014, Zobrist hit his 1,000 career hit in a game versus the New York Yankees in New York City.
Having been signed through 2014, Zobrist will either become a free agent in 2015 or continue on with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

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Today, Ben Zobrist will be speaking in College Church sanctuary about leadership.  The upcoming event is hosted by Men’s Residential Life and is open to men who are interested.

Zobrist is a man able to play many roles—on and off the field.

On the field, he is known, according to Bill Chastain of the MLB, as the “Father of Utility,” because he could play multiple positions on a team.  Chastain said in his column that Zobrist’s abilities prompted the Rays to find other players who could do the same.

Zobrist posted 8.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2009, SB Nation reported. WAR is the baseball community’s statistic used to measure a player’s contribution to their team.  Zobrist is a very high-value player and has built himself a major profile in the last few years.

Zobrist was humble about the role.

“It’s just who I am as a player,” Zobrist told Chastain.

Zobrist said that he did not want to be defined by any one role.

Last year, he received the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ (NAIA) highest individual honor, an induction into the Hall of Fame Class, along with ONU head basketball coach Ralph Hodge.

Off the field, Zobrist and his wife Julianna speak about marriage, relationships, baseball, and faith.

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Julianna, a Christian singer, also plays a variety of roles as she is currently writing a book called Double Play with her husband and author Mike Yorkey

“When I was younger,” Zobrist says on his site, “I was defined by my success on the sports field. Since my faith was in my performance I was on a roller coaster of emotions. It was the same in my daily life. I strove for a life of moral perfection but always fell short. Deep down I knew I would never be perfect.”

Zobrist has decided to find his perfection not in his performance but in his faith.

“Jesus is my Lord and my righteousness,” Zobrist says on his website. “My faith is no longer in my performance, but in His life, death and resurrection on my behalf.”

Students were drawn by the talk’s advertising campaign as well as the high profile speaker.

“Sounds kind of funny, but a lot of my friends were on the poster,” Sophomore Joe Kuschman said, “It’s a good topic—leadership. We have a lot of classes coming out right now on leadership. So it’s pretty applicable.”

Zobrist’s career and past at Olivet was also of interest.

“What I’m hoping to learn from Zobrist is how leadership is a team effort,” sophomore Danny Redden said. “I think as a professional baseball player he’ll be able to explain that.”

“It seems like he’s stayed humble while being a leader.” Kuschman added, “[I’d like] to see how he’s incorporated coming back and teaching leadership while playing in the MLB, to see how he took it and how it went.”

Both Kushman and Redden added that they followed Zobrist’s twitter account, which he shares with his wife.

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