By Michael Foust, Christian Examiner
CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – The MVP of the World Series is a Christian who loves theology and reading, and who enjoys talking about the “love of Christ.”
Chicago’s Ben Zobrist cemented himself as a baseball legend Wednesday night when he broke a 6-6, 10th-inning tie with a double to leftfield, helping propel the Cubs to an 8-7 win over Cleveland and giving the franchise its first World Series title in 108 years. He also was named the Most Valuable Player.
“I can’t even put it into words … what this team has battled through all year long,” he said after the game, “believing we’re the best team, but the ups and the downs and [then] having to fight through things. It’s an unbelievable team to be a part of. Every guy on this team roots for each other and takes care of each other and picks each other up.”
He told ESPN about his key at-bat, “I couldn’t have been more blessed to be in that situation.”
Off the field, Zobrist is one of the more outspoken Christians in professional sports. He and his wife, Julianna Zobrist, authored a 2014 book, “Playing With Purpose” (B&H), that details their career and faith journeys. His walk-up song this year was an up-tempo contemporary Christian song (“Alive”) by his wife, who is a singer.
His Twitter account says he’s a “follower of Jesus Christ,” and he has spoken publicly multiple times in recent years about his faith.
In 2013 he gave his testimony at Lipscomb University in which he said that as a teenager and young adult, “my life was all about sports,” despite being a Christian. In fact, Zobrist said, he carried that attitude into his early years in the Major Leagues.
“The bottom line was I needed to repent – repent of this great need that I had to achieve and succeed at this earthly level,” he said of his initial time in the pros. “… I was such a perfectionist, so egotistical.”
“God knows your heart,” he said. “… I’ve seen where my heart is without God, and it’s not impressive. … I can’t be perfect, but there is a life that I should be looking at that was perfect, and that’s Christ. Christ came to be what we couldn’t be, to succeed where we couldn’t succeed.”
Referencing the common desire for championships in sports, Zobrist said “if that’s your goal, there’s always going to be a next thing.”
“Why do so many of the greats have a hard time hanging it up?” he asked. “… They don’t know how to let it go.”
“I don’t want to be like that,” he said. “I want to be at rest and at peace.”
The peace, he said, “only comes from Christ.”
During a 2014 interview with LifeWay’s The Exchange podcast, Zobrist said he enjoys theology.
“I’ve always been a theology fan. I love theology,” he said. “… I like reading the theological books.”
Zobrist’s father is Tom Zobrist, the senior pastor at Liberty Bible Church in Eureka, Ill., and he played college baseball at Dallas Baptist.
Zobrist is a utility player who is officially listed as a second baseman, although he played five positions for the Cubs this year and seven of the nine defensive positions since his first Major League Baseball game in 2006. He spent most of his career in Tampa Bay before splitting time with two teams in 2015 and then signing with the Cubs for 2016. His on-base percentage ranked 13th this year in MLB at .386.
“We know that as a Christian athlete, people are watching, and so we want to be the best example we can be and show that we are different – that Christ has changed our lives,” Zobrist said in 2013 during an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “But at the same time, I want people to know that grace is for everyone. We all need grace. We all need Christ.”
He’s made the All-Star team three times and won his first World Series title in 2015 while playing for Kansas City.
“The biggest things is, I’m still learning,” Zobrist said in the FCA interview, referencing his faith. “I still have a lot to learn about what the love of Christ is like – that it’s not just knowledge … but it’s allowing the truth to change you – allowing Christ’s message of grace and hope and love through the cross, that that message is the message that changes the way we look at everything in our lives.”