Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Cubs experience a new blessing for former Ray Ben Zobrist

CHICAGO — Ben Zobrist grew up in southern Illinois rooting for the Cardinals because his dad and his grandfather did, taking no pity on the friends and family who bled Cubbie blue.

"The one dig was always the fact that they hadn't won that championship. 1908 — I'm sure that probably came out of my mouth at some point," Zobrist said. "So it's really funny now to come full circle, and I'm helping them do that."

Zobrist has been a huge help since signing on this season with the Cubs as a free agent, providing his typical defensive versatility, patient offensive approach and veteran leadership. And he got off to a hot start in the World Series, going 5-for-8 in the Games 1 and 2, then adding a hit Friday.

Zobrist is 35 now and has grown in many ways since coming up first with the Devil Rays in 2006 and to stay during the magical 2008 season, then traded for financial reasons after the 2014 season.

Take measure by listening to his former and current teammates and old and new again manager Joe Maddon rave about how great of a role model he is. "An example of the kind of guy you want on your team," said ex-Rays and now Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer.

Count the zeroes in the $56,000,000, four-year contract he signed with the Cubs, a pretty nice reward for a pastor's son who came up with so little he had to be told by a teammate on his first big-league road trip about tipping the hotel bellman.

Consider that when his successful singer wife, Julianna, wanted to navigate complex music copyright rules so her customized version of Bennie and the Jets could be used as a postseason walkup song, they got word through an intermediary to Elton John, who approved it the next day.

"It's definitely more than I ever expected," Zobrist said. "When I left Tampa Bay I felt like if my career ended at that point I'd be okay. I had an incredible time, and I've had a lot of success. For some reason, the Lord keeps my body going and keeps me productive, and I've been able to do some things the last couple years to help some teams."

Traded by the Rays to the A's (with Yunel Escobar for John Jaso and prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell), Zobrist was traded again in July 2015 to the Royals. He helped them to last year's Series championship, earning a ring he's, typically modestly, only worn a couple times.

When he decided last December to sign with the Cubs, spurning the Giants and Mets, it was to add another ring, and, despite the history, has it in his sights.

"This is the moment I believed could happen," Zobrist said.

The Cubs experience has been everything Zobrist could hope for, enhanced by buying a house in the Wrigleyville neighborhood within a mile of the stadium, close enough that his family could walk.

And that before a September game, Zobrist rode his bicycle — in uniform — to the stadium, fans rolling down car windows to wish him well.

"It was a fun experience, for sure," Zobrist said. "I love baseball history, and Wrigley Field is as good as it gets when it comes to that. …It kind of makes it feel like old school baseball all over again. I love that feel."

Given he grew up in Eureka, Ill., a town of about 5,000 midway between St. Louis and Chicago, played at small colleges, worked his way through the Astros and Rays minor-league systems, was sent back to the minors several times, and had to become the model for the modern-day now common super-utility player to stick in the majors, it's hard not to marvel at how far he has come.

"It's not something you'd think would happen, so in one sense you're surprised," said Ben's father, Tom. "But also you're not, but I know how hard of a worker Ben is. He's got a great body, he has great talent, he's a great thinker. Those were things infused in him. I think it's just an example of how anything can happen if it's meant to be."

Comments
Archer trade gets even better as Rays add promising young pitcher

Archer trade gets even better as Rays add promising young pitcher

NEW YORK — The return the Rays got from the Pirates for Chris Archer already looked good.Right-hander Tyler Glasnow has been increasingly impressive in three starts using his high-octane fastball and cruel breaking balls, and outfielder Austin ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Solid not good enough in loss to Yankees

Rays journal: Solid not good enough in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK — The Rays got another solid outing from LHP Jalen Beeks on Tuesday, though the few mistakes he did make were costly. Add their inability to muster much of anything offensively against J.A. Happ and two relievers, and the result was ye...
Updated: 9 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Yankees, opening a challenging week

For starters: Rays at Yankees, opening a challenging week

The Rays are in New York tonight to open – assuming the rain clears out – a challenging week of playing the AL East heavyweight Yankees and Red Sox.RHP Hunter Wood is slated to be on the mound to open the game for the Rays. LHP J.A. Happ ...
Published: 08/14/18
Rays get RHP Shane Baz as player to be named from Pirates in Chris Archer deal

Rays get RHP Shane Baz as player to be named from Pirates in Chris Archer deal

RHP Shane Baz, the No. 12 pick in the 2017 draft, will join the Rays from the Pirates as the player to be named in the Chris Archer trade.That makes the Rays' complete haul in the deal RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows and Baz.Baz, 19, has been pi...
Published: 08/14/18
What’s in the way of the Rays’ rebuild

What’s in the way of the Rays’ rebuild

So here's the good news.The Rays are 60-58 after taking two out of three in Toronto. Their so-called "tanking'' plan isn't really a total tank job after all. Call it a rebuilding project, and this rebuilding project looks way ahead of schedule. Not o...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/14/18
Another strong Tyler Glasnow start, but Rays fall to Blue Jays

Another strong Tyler Glasnow start, but Rays fall to Blue Jays

By KEEGAN MATHESONTimes CorrespondentTORONTO — The Rays might just be onto something with Tyler Glasnow.In his third start since coming over from Pittsburgh in the Chris Archer trade, the 6-foot-8 right-hander pitched five solid innings Sunday ...
Published: 08/12/18
Rays journal: Despite cooling off, Jake Bauers keeps impressing

Rays journal: Despite cooling off, Jake Bauers keeps impressing

By KEEGAN MATHESONTimes CorrespondentTORONTO — In a room full of rookies, Rays 1B Jake Bauers still stands out as one of the kids.The 22-year-old was back in the lineup and batting third in Sunday's series finale in Toronto, and he has the pote...
Published: 08/12/18
Rays journal: Kevin Cash appreciates versatility in lineup

Rays journal: Kevin Cash appreciates versatility in lineup

BY KEEGAN MATHESONTimes CorrespondentTORONTO — On a Rays roster stacked with rookie talent and a steady stream of new faces, players like Joey Wendle and Daniel Robertson have made manager Kevin Cash's life a bit easier.Their ability to play mu...
Published: 08/11/18
Rays win with speed, defense, and taking advantage of Blue Jays mistakes

Rays win with speed, defense, and taking advantage of Blue Jays mistakes

BY KEEGAN MATHESONTimes CorrespondentTORONTO — Coming off a week of one-run games, the Rays used their speed and defense to grind out another close win on Saturday afternoon in Toronto.Tampa Bay entered its series at Rogers Centre riding a six-...
Published: 08/11/18
Rays journal: Patience paying off for Mallex Smith

Rays journal: Patience paying off for Mallex Smith

BY KEEGAN MATHESONTimes CorrespondentTORONTO — It's all clicking now for Rays OF Mallex Smith, who continues to ride a prolonged hot streak and flash game-changing ability at the top of Tampa Bay's lineup.A hot April from Smith generated plenty...
Published: 08/10/18