Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ben Zobrist: A Humble All-Star

Let’s face it: Ben Zobrist is not a household name. In all likelihood, he will never be one. However, Zobrist is an American League All-Star this year for the Tampa Bay Rays. And he has earned this honor once again in the most humble way.

Zobrist, a 32-year-old native of Eureka, Ill. is in New York to play in his second All-Star Game. His first selection to the Midsummer Classic was in 2009. This year, “Zorrilla” – as he’s affectionately known – is hitting .260 with 6 homers and 48 RBI. The numbers probably don’t jump out at you as being off the charts, but Zobrist is a key asset to the Rays’ success. He is listed as a second baseman, but he can play a variety of positions and is a switch-hitter at the plate. He comes through in big moments with clutch hits, although few specific ones are top of mind.

Perhaps the biggest reason for his All-Star selection is because of his versatility and the way he carries himself both on and off the field. He’s a classy guy who does the right thing without any fanfare. His faith might have a little something to do with that. In fact, in an interview on the Rays Radio Network, Zobrist said he hopes all of the “big-name guys” who made the AL and NL teams will get the long autograph lines so he can move through this process swiftly.

Now in his eighth season with Tampa Bay, Zobrist actually wore a Devil Rays uniform when he made his debut with the club on Aug. 1, 2006. This was Joe Maddon’s first season as manager. “Zorrilla” is currently the longest-tenured Ray on the team, and next year would mark his ninth with the club, matching only Carl Crawford for length of service with the franchise.

While Zobrist has achieved some notoriety as a major league player, his wife has also done the same in her own right. Julianna Zobrist is a Christian singer-songwriter who has gained a bit of a following in this musical niche. In fact, her husband’s walk-up song played at Tropicana Field when he gets up to bat is one of her better-known hits – “Behind Me.”

With the cameras zooming in on stars like Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Justin Verlander, and Mariano Rivera Citi Field, Ben Zobrist will be there doing his thing – playing hard, giving it his all, and not wanting the attention. Some fans may have questioned why #18 was picked over Evan Longoria or another Rays player with better statistics. (Matt Moore was a late addition to the AL squad.) The fact of the matter is that Zobrist is a one-of-a-kind athlete who is refreshing to see in the midst of an egocentric sports culture. And you can’t help but root for good guys like him.