Jack-of-all-trades Zobrist prioritizes being a dad
Father of two takes role at home as seriously as job on the field for Rays
Rays infielder Ben Zobrist is known for the myriad abilities he provides on the field. He can hit from either side of the plate and has played every position except catcher and pitcher during his time with Tampa Bay.
Team marketing officials even constructed a "Super Zo Utility Belt" highlighting Zobrist's many talents as a giveaway for kids in July.
But the skill which Zobrist is most proud does not show itself between the foul lines. It comes in fathering his two children: Zion, a 4-year-old boy, and Kruse, a 1-year-old girl.
As challenging as Zobrist's duties are at work, things really pick up when he comes home. Time is in short supply in the Zobrist family as Ben's wife, Juliana, also has a demanding career as a singer and songwriter.
"We do this for however many hours in a day, but at home, it's nonstop," Zobrist said. "You put effort into being at the field, and you're tired from playing hard or you're beat up, but I want to give that same effort as a dad. It needs to be more important to me to put that effort in as a dad than it is to say, 'I'm at home, so now I'm just going to relax.'"
Many fathers talk about "leaving work at work" in relationships with their kids, a task that may seem more difficult for Zobrist, given the public nature of his profession.
Zobrist tries to separate the two worlds as much as possible -- although there was some crossover with that belt giveaway, as he likes to read superhero stories to his kids before bed.
"My wife and I don't talk about it unless I want to," Zobrist said. "If I have a good game, it's fun right after the game, but after that, we're back into the home routine. Usually at night, it's putting them in bed. It's not something we think about beyond scheduling. It's, 'OK, Daddy is going to work. Wish him luck in the game.' But that's about it."
After a game this summer at Tropicana Field, Ben and Zion took swings together in the batting cage. While it's much too early for Zion to be considering a career path, Zobrist said he won't lobby for it to be in baseball.
Zobrist knows from experience how difficult becoming a big leaguer can be. He was set to follow his father's path as a minister before getting noticed at Olivet Nazerene University and later at Dallas Baptist University.
"I don't want him to feel like there's an expectation of, 'Because Dad did it, I have to be able to do that,'" Zobrist said. "I want him to find his own path, his own gifts and abilities and help him pursue those. If it's baseball, I'll help him, but I might have a little more to say about baseball than another job. I'm not going to push him down that pathway."
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.