Ben Zobrist take circuitous route to Kansas City

Royals-Zobrist

AUGUST 2015 – It has taken several years and a few turns and detours, but Ben Zobrist has made it to Kansas City.

Zobrist’s father, Tom, is a pastor in Eureka, Illinois and was a graduate of Calvary Bible College in Kansas City. Ben was going to attend his dad’s alma matter.

Ben, however, did like playing baseball, but had no college offers after high school. At the suggestion of his high school coach, he attended a senior showcase in Peoria, Illinois and received a scholarship from Olivet Nazarene University.

His senior season, he transferred to Dallas Baptist University to face better competition and see how good he was. He was good enough to be selected in the sixth round of the 2004 draft by the Houston Astro, who included him in a trade two years later to the Rays.

surplusexchange.orgThe versatile Zobrist blossomed into a star with the Rays, hitting .297 with 27 home runs, 91 RBIs and.948 OPS in 2009, finishing eighth in the American League MVP race. He was an All-Star selection in 2009 and 2013.

The Rays moved Zobrist to the Oakland Athletics on Jan. 10, 2015. With the A’s falling out of the race and Zobrist in the final year of his contract, the Royals acquired him before the trading deadline at the end of July. The A’s picked up left-hander Sean Manaea and right-hander Aaron Brooks.

So 15 years after he intended to become a Calvary Bible College Warrior, Zobrist became a Kansas City Royal.

Manager Ned Yost immediately started the switch-hitting Zobrist in left field, while left fielder Alex Gordon is on the mend after a leg injury. General manager Dayton Moore said the Royals had interest in the versatile Zobrist before the Gordon injury.

“We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore said. “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.

“I don’t think anybody is going to execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be.  When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive.  We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire. No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension.  If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”

Zobrist has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the majors. He has power, hitting two home runs – one from each side of the plate – in a Royals’ victory at Toronto. He also homered the next day.

“Zobrist gets us through Gordo’s injury,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Gordon is expected back in late August or early September. When he does return, Yost will have an intriguing decision to make. While Ben Zobrist has played nearly every position, the majority of his games have been at second base. Offensively, he offers an upgrade over Omar Infante. So there is the possibility Yost could move Zobrist to second base when Gordon is healthy.

“I don’t see any glaring holes,” Yost said of his Royals’ club with the additions of Zobrist and No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto. “It’s a good team.”

Good enough to run away with the American League Central.

This trade deadline was certainly different than last year. In July 2014, Moore acquired left-hander Scott Downs as a free agent, picked up right-handed reliever Jason Frasor from the Texas Rangers and acquired catcher Erik Kratz and right-hander Liam Hendriks from the Toronto Blue Jays. In August, he added Josh Willingham in a deal with the Minnesota Twins. None of those acquisitions is with the Royals today.

Zobrist, 34, like Cueto, will probably be here until the curtain drops on this season, but not next season. He can become a free agent after this year.

Do pay attention to Zobrist’s walk-up song. It is called “The Tree” and the artist is Julianna Zobrist, Ben’s wife, who is a contemporary Christian singer from Iowa. And don’t be surprised if the Royals have her sing the National Anthem before a Kauffman Stadium game.

The Royals are hoping the tree they are climbing is in full bloom in late October.

Article by Alan Eskew

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