Royals Ben Zobrist: Man for All Seasons for Christ

by Bruce Darnall · Print Print · Email Email

Ben Zobrist, star utility fielder (he can play six positions) for Kansas City Royals baseball club, has made an impact with his new team since being traded mid-season from the Oakland Athletics. Helping make the playoffs has proven his worth.

Zobrist has also made an impact off the playing field by the way he lives his life. He is a strong Christian man, and he is unashamed to share his love for Jesus. Friend and former teammate, Brian Shouse, comments, “Ben is a devoted family man and a very active Christian who loves sharing the Gospel of Christ with others. He looks for ways he can help and encourage others in their walk in life. Ben loves the Lord, and he has found peace and joy in life through his faith in Jesus.”

Ben is a devoted family man and a very active Christian who loves sharing the Gospel of Christ with others.

Ben is a devoted family man and a very active Christian who loves sharing the Gospel of Christ with others.

Ben and his four siblings were most influenced by their parents, Rev. Tom and Cindi Zobrist, and the Liberty Bible Church in Eureka, IL, home of Eureka College, alma mater of President Ronald Reagan and 1994 NAIA D-2 National Basketball Champions. Ben remembers going to church at a young age and accepting Christ as Lord and Savior around the age of 5. He explains, “I heard in Sunday School if we do not accept Christ as Savior we will go to hell. So out of fear I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to go to Heaven and not go to hell. I felt it was a great way for God to shed His grace on me by putting fear in Himself into my life to help me understand that I needed Him.” Ben goes on to say, “That night I talked to Mom and told her I was scared. She told me if I ask Jesus to come into my heart and in my life I don’t have to be afraid.”

From Whiffle Ball to World Series

Ben spent time with church and family activities. He was also involved with sports and school activities. Ben and his friends constantly spent time playing whiffle ball in the Zobrist’s backyard, make-shift, ball field, with backstop and all. There, he developed his competitive edge and started his switch-hitting.

Zobrist, a 2 time American League All-Star (2009 and 2013), was an excellent athlete in several sports besides baseball, especially basketball. He and his friends spent hours playing inside in the winter at his father’s church. His last year in high school Eureka went undefeated until the last game of the sectionals.

Baseball was the sport that started to come together for Ben in the middle school. Craig Gerdes was the middle school coach who took his team to state in Ben’s 7th grade year (4th place) and 8th grade year (3rd place). As a freshman in high school, Ben made the varsity team, and he jump started four outstanding years at Eureka High School under his coach Bob Gold who comments, “Ben was a good player, real smooth and an excellent hitter. It culminated in his senior year, and he had a great season to finish his high school career.” Gold also had an impact on Ben as adult leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle group at school.

Ben was an excellent student, and he was hoping to go to college on a baseball scholarship. He received no baseball scholarship offers despite his great senior season.   Plan B was to go to his father’s alma mater, Calvary Baptist College, in Kansas City, MO, where he could play basketball. However, the Lord had not cancelled out Plan A.

Zobrist accepted that he would be heading to Kansas City to college when an unexpected phone call from Coach Gold saying a baseball try out will be held in a small town west of Peoria. Gold assured Ben there would be scouts and college coaches in attendance. Ben still having the desire to play baseball went to the tryout. It was pretty simple with each player doing a little of everything, fielding ground balls, hitting, throwing, pitching.

Plan A would soon materialize. At the tryout was a baseball coach from Olivet Nazarene University. Ben recalls what happened, “Coach Elliott Johnson contacted me and said, ‘I don’t want to take you away from the plan God has for you, but we are looking for solid Christian players to build our baseball program at Olivet.’”

Having just returned from a church conference whose theme was “Keeping the Door of your life open to what God maybe wants you to do, regardless what it is,” Ben decided that was where God was leading him. Olivet offered a full baseball scholarship.

Ben, a ten year major league veteran with a career batting average of .265 with 127 homeruns and 567 runs batted in (RBI), played three years at Olivet. Each summer he played ball. One summer he played and shared his testimony through Athletes in Action in Central America. The summers of 2002 and 2003 Ben played in the Northwoods Summer League for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in Wausau, WI. Ben needed to see just how good he was, and he did that by transferring to Dallas Baptist University where he would face stiff competition for his senior year.

The journey continues when Zobrist was drafted in 2004 in the 6th round (164th overall) by the Houston Astros. The night before he headed for his first assignment there was a party of friends and family, coaches and teachers. Ben’s father spent time with Ben after the party. Rev. Zobrist shares, “Ben told me ‘This is more important to others than it is to me. The way I look at it is I am a missionary but I don’t have to raise support; but I am going out to reach people for Christ whether it is teammates, fans, whatever.’ And I told him, “Here is what’s important to me. I don’t care what you do for a living as long as you live for God.’ When Ben left, I felt confident he had his focus right. He was not worried about success in baseball but his success to the Lord.”

Ben went quickly through the minor leagues. He was traded in the middle of the 2006 season from the Astros to the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ organization. Tampa Bay called him up to the major league team from Triple A Durham (N.C.), and Ben made his big league debut on August 1st (2006).

Not playing well in 2007 Ben was sent down to Triple A Durham. Wondering why God would allow this demotion and where baseball is

Mid-season this year the A’s sent Ben to the Kansas City Royals who are now in the World Series.

Mid-season this year the A’s sent Ben to the Kansas City Royals who are now in the World Series.

going to fit into his life, he reflected on Scripture (Roman 8:28): “For all things work together for good with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Ben shares, “I did not have much peace…But God allows things to happen the way He wants, and we need to accept it happily and joyfully and to love Him through things that don’t happen the way we would like in life.” He adds, “I realize there are plenty of souls in Triple A and all around that need the Lord… Being sent up and down in both 2007 and 2008 was a great lesson for me. I had a prideful and wrong attitude of success. Success is not of this world.”

Ben has had some good years statistically, but 2009 sticks out as Ben’s best season for the (now) Tampa Bay Rays when he batted .297 and hit 27 home runs and knocked in 91 batters (RBIs). Ben has been a consistent fielder and hitter over the years and that makes him a valuable player. After the 2014 season he was traded to the Oakland Athletics. Mid-season this year the A’s sent Ben to the Kansas City Royals who are now in the World Series. Ben went to the World Series with the Rays in 2008.

Gabe Gross, former Rays’ teammate, comments, “The first thought that comes to me is uncompromising. Ben’s faith, his belief in Christ as his Savior covers every aspect of his life. He does not short change his faith. He lives it; that is who he is.”

Two Things More Important than Baseball

There are two things more important to Ben than baseball. They are faith and family and friends. His faith in God through his loving Savior, Jesus Christ, takes the top spot. However his family and friends are a close second. He has always been close to his parents, grandparents and siblings.

During all the ups and downs and even the good seasons, Ben had another close family member by his side, his faithful companion and wife, Julianna. Ben shares, “Julianna has been just a wonderful, supportive and loving wife, having to ‘roll with the punches’ with all the travel and away time.” Julianna is a professional singer of Christian music. Both Ben and Julianna have been supportive with things they love individually. She graduated from Belmont University, noted for music education, and they have their off season home near Nashville to allow her to stay in touch with friends and colleagues in the music industry.

Royals vs Mariners

Ben shares, “I want people to see that the Spirit of God lives in me.”

Ben and Julianna have been blessed with a son, Zion, and a daughter, Kruse; and they are expecting their third child very soon. Ben and Julianna take their faith seriously by witnessing their faith in Jesus. Julianna does so in her music and sharing her testimony. Ben shares his walk with the Lord through a special baseball card with his testimony and many speaking engagements at church and youth groups and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes events. Ben shares, “I want people to see that the Spirit of God lives in me.”

By Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, WI

Photos provided by Kansas City Royals

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