By Aaron Earls
Ben Zobrist graduated high school without any athletic scholarship offers and thinking he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a minister. Now he is the World Series MVP for the Chicago Cubs.
In an interview on The Exchange, the All-Star baseball player and his wife, Julianna, a Christian recording artist, share about growing up in the church, their Christian walk and how they handle the spotlight on their lives.
Zobrist said that while he became a Christian at an early age, he allowed sports to dominate his life as a teenager. “As a senior in high school, I had put sports in an elevated place in my life, so much so that it was an idol for me,” he said.
“It was at that time the Lord showed me He wanted to be in control of everything,” he said. “He had to have the number one place for me to have peace in my life.”
After graduating, Zobrist had no offers to play sports out of high school, so he decided to go to Bible college and pursue a life of professional ministry. But his high school coach invited him to a scout day where a baseball coach at a Christian college offered him a full scholarship.
From there, Zobrist would be drafted by the Houston Astros before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. With the Rays, Zobrist was twice selected as an All-Star. In 2015, he won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals.
Before the 2016 season, he signed with the Chicago Cubs reaching his third All-Star game and winning the World Series MVP after driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of the deciding game seven.
In his interview on The Exchange, Zobrist described another decisive hit in his career—hitting a walk-off home run. He said he had never experienced that in all his years as a baseball player until doing it for the Rays. As he was batting, Zobrist said he prayed, “Lord, if I get a good pitch, I’m just going to swing hard and see what happens.”
When asked how he balances fame and his faith, Zobrist points to the cross as a way for him to keep the right perspective.
“When you look at the gospel and you realize why Christ had to die, you have to take an honest look at yourself,” he said. “We are all in a great need to be dependent on the Lord for His strength, His ability, His sacrifice made for us on the cross. When I play the game and I have success, it’s the perspective of the gospel of the cross that reminds me of the reality of who I am.”
He said he did not handle his growing platform well at the beginning of his career. “I heaped pressure on myself,” he said. “I thought, ‘The Lord has put me here so I have to do all these things,’ but I couldn’t do them all. I failed at a lot of things and went into spiritual depression.”
But then he realized that he did not need to place that pressure on himself. “That’s not from the Lord,” he said. “Whether we are called to minister to 1,000 people or a million people, or two people that’s your ministry and the Lord is pleased with the heart of it, not the numbers.”
Check out Ben and Julianna Zobrist’s book Double Play to read more about their faith and family.
Watch the full interview from The Exchange here:
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.