Ben Zobrist is the type of player who is almost always universally liked by fans. Who doesn’t like a person who can do almost anything and does it with almost no complaint? There are players who can play many positions, but they have had to learn and become proficient at those spots to stay in the Major Leagues. Zobrist, 29, is an everyday player who also happens to play somewhere different everyday, depending on the needs of the team. Not only that, but he switch hits!
On Monday night against Boston, Joe Maddon started eight lefties and switch hitters against the Red Sox’s Daisuke Matsuzaka. Only B.J. Upton hit from the right side against the right hander. Zobrist played second, made some nice defensive plays, got three hits and helped the Rays to a 16-5 victory. The next day, Boston sent lefty Jon Lester to the mound, so Maddon loaded the lineup with as many right handers as he could. Zobrist moved to right field in place of Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez started the game at second.
Since Zobrist became an everyday player in 2009 and an All-Star, he has given Maddon so many options so that the rest of the players on the roster can slide into their most comfortable positions. He has played mostly at second base and right field, but has also filled in at first and shortstop, while taking a handful of innings in center, left and third base. He has yet to make an error in the outfield and has a .979 career fielding percentage. He broke through at the plate in 2009 with 27 home runs and 91 runs batted in. He regressed in 2010 to 10 and 75 respectively and has started off slowly so far in 2011, (but which Rays player hasn’t?).
Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros in the sixth round of the 2004 draft. He played his college ball at both Olivet Nazarene University and Dallas Baptist University. He is one of the two players to have a significant career in Major League Baseball to attend a Nazarene University (former pitcher Tim Belcher being the other). He is married to Julianna Zobrist, a Christian singer. One of her songs “The Tree” is played before Zobrist bats at Tropicana Field.
Zobrist, or as fans in the area call him “Zorilla”, has done some pretty cool things off the field. For example, the Rays had a promotion which resulted in nine-year-old Braeden Johnson being able to take Ben to school with him for show-and-tell. Needless to say, the super utility man made the fourth grader’s day. Zobrist also volunteers in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee at the RBI program, which allows him to impact youngsters and develop their love for the game.