Zobrist with the Cubs in 2016
|Chicago Cubs – No. 18|
Born: May 26, 1981|
|August 1, 2006, for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2016 season)
|Runs batted in||643|
|Career highlights and awards|
Benjamin Thomas Zobrist (//; born May 26, 1981), nicknamed Zorilla, is an American professional baseball second baseman for the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays, his first MLB club and where he spent the majority of his career, and briefly for the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals. A two-time World Series champion in consecutive seasons of 2015 with the Royals and 2016 with Cubs, Zobrist was the 2016 World Series Most Valuable Player.
A versatile defender and a switch-hitter with a high walk rate, Zobrist has played roughly half his innings at second base, and has also spent significant time at shortstop and in right field. Thus, he has been often been referred to as a "super utility player".
Zobrist was born and raised in Eureka, Illinois, by his parents Cynthia "Cindi" (née Cali) and Tom Zobrist, senior pastor of Liberty Bible Church in Eureka.
Zobrist played baseball starting when he was eight years old; he and his friends built their own wiffle ball field behind his house. Zobrist attended Eureka High School, graduating in 2001. After no professional scouts or college recruiters considered him by the time he graduated, Zobrist 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." Zobrist planned to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, but Zobrist's high school coach encouraged him to spend $50 to participate in an annual summer event that showcased seniors in Peoria, Illinois. He played in the showcase, and was given an offer to play college baseball at Olivet Nazarene University, which he accepted. In his time at Olivet, he pitched and also played at shortstop and second base. He transferred to Dallas Baptist University for his senior year, where he played shortstop.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays
Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros as a shortstop in the sixth round of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft. With right-handed pitcher Mitch Talbot, Zobrist was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman/designated hitter Aubrey Huff and cash on July 12, 2006. He made his major league debut with Tampa Bay on August 1, 2006. Zobrist exclusively played shortstop in his first two seasons with Tampa Bay.
He struggled through parts of the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Rays. One day he met a "swing mechanic" (batting coach) 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 Melvin Upton, Jr. (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 was made the starting second baseman after teammate Akinori Iwamura was injured. Zobrist hit three grand slams in 2009, leading the Rays, and was among the league leaders in slugging percentage. He earned a trip to his first All Star Game in St. Louis in 2009. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America named him MVP of the Rays for 2009.
Zobrist led all hitters in the majors in 2009 for wins above replacement with 8.6, ahead of Albert Pujols' 8.4 WAR.
On April 8, 2013, Zobrist became the strikeout victim on the disputed call that led to Joe Nathan's 300th career save. On July 5, 2013, Zobrist was named an All Star for the second time of his career.
On January 10, 2015, Zobrist was traded to the Oakland Athletics with teammate Yunel Escobar in exchange for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell. On opening day with the Athletics, Zobrist hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat. On April 25, 2015, it was revealed that Zobrist had a torn medial meniscus in his left knee, putting him on the 15-day disabled list. The knee required surgery, keeping Zobrist out of action for 4–6 weeks.
Kansas City Royals
On July 28, 2015, Zobrist was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks. He played 59 games in the regular season for Kansas City and finished with a batting average of .284, with 7 home runs, 37 runs scored, and 23 RBIs. The Royals won the AL Central Division and played the Houston Astros for the ALDS with Zobrist starting in all five games. The Royals advanced to the World Series after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in six games to become the American League Champions. The Royals won the 2015 World Series after defeating the New York Mets in four of the five games. Zobrist played second base and batted second in every game of the 2015 Royals postseason. He hit .303 in the 2015 postseason with 66 at bats, 15 runs scored, 20 hits, 2 home runs, and 6 RBIs.
In Game 4 of the 2016 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants with the Cubs having a 2-1 series lead, Zobrist drove in Kris Bryant to score the first run in the top of the ninth and later scored the tying run on a two-run single by Willson Contreras. The Cubs scored another run later that inning, sending them to the National League Championship Series. Following the Cubs' Game 7 victory in the 2016 World Series, after driving in the first of two go-ahead runs in the top of the 10th inning, he was named the World Series Most Valuable Player.
Zobrist is an above-average hitter with a career slash line of .264/.354/.429, wRC+ of 118, and walk rate of 12.5%. He is also an above-average baserunner, who has 102 stolen bases at a success rate of 74%. Zobrist is also noted for his defensive versatility. He has played over 4,200 defensive innings at second base, over 2,200 in right field, over 1,700 at shortstop, and over 500 innings at other outfield positions. Zobrist has been rated by UZR as a significantly above-average defender at second and in right, and a marginally below-average defender at shortstop.
Zobrist lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Christian singer Julianna Zobrist, and their children, a son, Zion Benjamin, born on February 1, 2009, and two daughters, Kruse Allegra, born on September 19, 2011, and Blaise Royal, who was born on November 6, 2015, five days after Zobrist's Royals won the 2015 World Series. During the World Series, Royals fans were concerned that Ben Zobrist would leave the World Series if his wife began going into labor. Julianna delighted Royals fans by telling her husband to keep playing even if she went into labor. Blaise Royal Zobrist's middle name pays homage to her father's World Series-winning Royals.
Zobrist often talks about his Christian faith, claiming that 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. This is what I was made to do." He and former 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."
In the 2013 film Ring The Bell, released by Provident Films, Ben plays himself in a cameo role alongside Rick Sutcliffe, John Kruk, Mark Hall (also playing themselves), Ryan Scharoun, Ashley Anderson McCarthy, and Casey Bond.
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