Over the past ten years I’ve been privileged to serve as Ben Zobrist’s pastor. Obviously, this one fact in no way qualifies me to speak into Ben’s baseball prowess, or his athleticism, or what contribution he will make to the Cub’s run for the pennant. These are (and will become) self-evident. The stats are out there for all to see. He is, after all, Mr. Utility. The real deal.
My angle into Ben Zobrist is more the man. And, He is merely a man. In order to effectively shepherd “Zobe” over these ten years I’ve largely ignored the fact he’s a major league baseball player. We have known each other as broken human beings in need of grace and forgiveness. He is a sinner saved by grace and prefers to be known as such. He lives as such. I have never met a man more unaffected by his status or accomplishments. He has a peculiar blindness to self. There is a rootedness in him that will not let him drift towards arrogance. I honestly don’t know a more unassuming man. He has the kind of character that when the weight of success is set on it there’s no effect. He’s the same steady and self-effacing guy he’s always been. So, he will probably ignore what I have to I say, especially if it’s favorable.
I am writing to tell you Ben Zobrist is good for baseball and for Chicago. Chicago is good for him. And the two of you were destined to team up. Ben is blue-collar like you. He is not flashy. He is rarely in the spotlight and has no desire for it. He is content to let others play those roles. Ben is simply excited to play the game. He takes his role as a teammate to be his most significant. He is the consummate team player. He finds his spot, settles in and pulls along with everyone else towards one consuming goal. This is why exactly why Joe Madden describes him as a “good virus.” His consistency is infectious.
Ben might be best described as an old school player in a modern era. On second base, or in right field, or wherever he is placed, there is the heart of a ten year old. That ubiquitous kid on a given Saturday morning somewhere in Middle America. He is a purist and a throwback to a golden age of baseball. In his heart he is a soft leather glove, pair of baggy pants and a floppy cap from the 1900s. He is the embodiment of tradition. There’s nostalgia in his play and attitude. Not much unlike your city – there is something in Ben that makes you cherish the best parts of the game. Ben will only make your city’s relationship with its storied baseball team better.
For all the years he’s played, he still can’t believe he gets to. You can see this in the man. There’s not an ounce of entitlement in him. He takes no shortcuts. Ben shows up and goes to work. His work ethic is the most impressive part of Ben as a player. He is a professional in the truest sense of the word. He is gritty and consistent and unwaveringly dependable. His job is to play for the fans and for your city and for the game.
I can tell you the man behind the scenes is the man on the field. He’s the same man in every room of his life. He’s the one player, if your children were to idolize, you’d breath a sigh of relief. They’d actually end up better citizens and people if they attempted to duplicate his character and habits. If his private life was ever to become the stuff of headlines – you’d be disappointed. That is – unless – you find the habits of an ordinary husband and father scandalous. He loves his family most and cherishes them above any of his professional opportunities. Where I come from we’d say, “They’re good people.” That’s the Zobrist family. Good people. Where ever Ben and Julianna are placed the water level of grace and excellence rises with them. The Zobrists make everyone around them better without ever assuming they’re better then others.
So, it seems all the stars have aligned for the Cubs. It’s exciting to watch. I jumped right on this bandwagon. Having been drawn into the Cub vortex by virtue of my connection with Ben, I have to admit it’s pretty awesome. No ones is more thrilled than he is. He roots for the cubs and plays for them at the same time. Expectations are through the roof. You can feel it. As I take it all in, there is one thing of which I’m certain – whatever comes, at the end of the season my friend will transition back into normalcy with an imperceptible ease. He’ll pursue his life and family and friends and faith and normalcy with the same tenacity he does baseball. Ben being Ben. But, hopefully, this won’t happen until around November.
You can order Ben’s book here: Double Play