It’s only fitting that Ben Zobrist would be named the 2016 World Series MVP and drive home the go-ahead run in Game 7 of the Fall Classic finale.
Zobrist grew up in central Illinois, two hours from Wrigley Field, and was acquired by the Chicago Cubs this season to help bring veteran experience to a team of budding stars. Zobrist, 35, played nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before winning a World Series title in 2015 with the Kansas City Royals and another one with the Cubs. Now it looks as if Zobrist will play the final years of his career in Chicago, playing for a team that so many children in Illinois dream of playing for.
And after this year, Zobrist will forever be etched in Cubs history.
Zobrist was a consistent offensive force for the Cubs throughout the World Series, compiling a .357 batting average and .919 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in seven games. He brought the ease, stability and consistency that Cubs manager Joe Maddon hoped he would bring when the Cubs acquired Zobrist in the offseason. His clutch RBI double in the top of the 10th in Game 7 of the World Series, arguably the biggest hit in baseball history, seemed to secure the selection of Zobrist as MVP.
“Who sets a better example of how to work an at-bat?” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon on Zobrist being named MVP. “Who sets a better example of just being a professional than he does?…Here’s a guy that he’s in his mid-30s, and his work ethic is incredible to watch, what he does after games, not before games, after games, to be ready for the next day and his dedication…He’s just a different cat. Everybody would like to have one of those on their team. We’re just very fortunate to have him. He just probably exemplifies exactly how we want to play the game.”
But while Zobrist will go on to be praised and revered by Cubs fans, as the first Cub to ever win a World Series MVP, Zobrist directs his praise toward the God who he bases his life upon.
“Baseball is a great game, and we have a lot of fun out here, and it’s a great job to have, but the bottom line is that it can’t be God…it’ll always let you down in the end,” Zobrist told Shawn Brown of CBN Sports after Game 2 of the World Series. “We may be champions at the end of this year, but at some point, my career is going to be over, and baseball won’t be able to carry me, but I know the Lord will always carry me, and I put my hope in Him.”
From struggling in his first two years in the big leagues, to becoming an All-Star in his third year, to eventually playing in three World Series (he played in the 2008 World Series with Tampa Bay), winning two titles and being named the 2016 World Series MVP, Zobrist’s baseball career has been a storybook journey. But he understands that his biggest journey in life revolves around his life in Christ.
“The biggest thing is that I’m still learning,” Zobrist told FCA in 2013 when he played for the Rays. “I still have a lot to learn about what the love of Christ is like. It’s not just knowledge. It’s not just knowing the truth, but really allowing the truth to change you, allowing Christ and the message of grace and hope and love through the cross—that message is a message that changes the whole way we look at everything in our lives. He’s using me to preach to my own heart and show me where I need him most and where I still haven’t allowed the love of Christ to change me, change my heart still.”
“God is so patient. That’s what I’ve learned throughout this game. His love is steadfast. He’s faithful, patient and merciful. I’m undeserving. I’m no more deserving of Christ than anybody else, and I’m definitely not anymore deserving to be able to do something like this on a daily basis for a job; I really just want to grow in Christ and understand more who God is and who He desires me to be.”
This story was published in Sports Spectrum’s Fall 2016 print magazine. Log in HERE to view the issue. Subscribe HERE to receive four issues of Sports Spectrum a year.