PORT CHARLOTTE — Ben Zobrist was right where he wanted to be, right where he felt he belonged in April 2007. He was the Opening Day shortstop for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Can life be any better?
The hard work paid off. The dream came true.
The young shortstop with the beautiful wife was living the life millions of boys could only live in their dreams.
Then the dream became a nightmare, and Zobrist’s life began to unravel.
By mid-May he was back at Triple-A Durham.
For the first time in his young life, Ben Zobrist failed.
“It shakes your world,” he said. “I would say I had an inflated view of myself and what I could do. That was a bit of reality.”
You might have heard this tale before. If you listened to Ben and Julianna Zobrist talk about their trials at a Bay area church, which they do often, you heard Ben talk about the depression that nearly ruined his career and Julianna talk about the time when she was 12 and was sexually molested by some older boys at a church camp.
You heard them talk about their dark moments.
You listened as they bared their souls and talked about their faith and how together they regained their footing.
Soon, you will be able to read about it.
The book, “Double Play,” which Ben and Julianna wrote with Mike Yorkey, is due out April 1.
In it, they talk about their life and faith, Ben’s baseball career and Julianna’s singing career.
They cover everything, the good and the bad.
Especially the bad.
“The point of sharing those things is, first and foremost, so that we could really share what God has done, the story that He’s taking us through, the bumps in the road that we don’t want to remember, but it’s part of our story,” Zobrist said. “It’s not something we try not to think about at all. It’s something that is a vital part of what God was teaching us at our lives at the time, and we want people who are going through similar struggles to be encouraged.”
For Ben, it began when he was sent back to Durham that season.
“It was a crisis of identity,” he said. “I was trying to figure out who I was as a ball player.”
Zobrist lost his confidence. The guy who couldn’t get enough of the game no longer wanted to go to the ballpark. He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t want to eat. He lost his motivation.
His negative thoughts followed him home from the field. It placed a stress on their marriage.
“That was a time where I believe that God was trying to get my attention,” Zobrist said. “Where He was allowing me to struggle through those things to realize I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and to be something that I’m not, and so I had to get to the point where I had to stop thinking selfishly and thinking about myself all the time.”
Zobrist said he began talking more to his pastor. They talked about how baseball was only a part of his life. That being a husband, a son, a Christian was also part of the picture.
Somehow, Zobrist made it back to the big leagues that season but finished the year on the disabled list after tearing an oblique. Zobrist saw that as a sign.
“I needed to step away from it and regroup,” he said. “I think that, combined with a visit from my pastor and those kind of things, helped me regroup and get back on track.”
The Zobrists shared their story so others experiencing similar struggles might realize that they are not alone.
“It’s a story about redemption, and it’s a story about hope, what brings true hope,” Zobrist said. “It’s not the game. It’s not the performance. Whether it’s good or bad, the hope is in something much more. It’s in our faith and much more stable places than this life that kind of goes up and down at times.”
Zobrist is a two-time All-Star, a key contributor to four playoff teams. He’s played in the World Series. He’s making millions of dollars.
And he remains grounded in reality forged from those dark days in the summer of 2007.
“Looking back, I’m glad that I went through it,” he said. “I hated it at the time, but it’s what I needed to be a little bit more sober-minded about the successes I do have.”