By: Alex Patt
It is really heartbreaking to see what former Cubs, Rays, Royals and A’s star Ben Zobrist has gone through in his personal life. Zobrist is clearly having a tough time dealing with it all, and he deserves so much better in life. By all accounts it seems like he is a really good guy, and we all know he was a heck of a ballplayer with a great story.
A kid from Eureka, Illinois who needed to scrap together $50 to keep his dreams alive of becoming an MLB star would grow up to play 14 years in the majors, make three All Star teams and win two World Series rings.
Zobrist’s final four seasons of professional baseball were spent on the North Side of Chicago, where he would be a key in the Cubs 2016 World Series run. Making the All Star team that year, driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Game 7, and winning World Series MVP honors made that four-year deal worth every single penny. In 461 games as a Cub he hit .269/.362/.411 with 40 home runs and 84 doubles. He also recorded 21 postseason hits from 2016-2018. Also worth noting in 2018 he batted a career-high .305 in 139 games.
Unfortunately in 2019, his final year as a Cub and in baseball, things in his personal life took a tough turn. He had to take leaves of absence in Spring Training and much of the 2019 regular season. Now we know the unfortunate details of what has taken place over the past few years. I, will not go into the details about is, the story is linked above and frankly I do not think it is appropriate to focus on the negative. This is intended to focus on Ben Zobrist and how he should be recognized.
Zobrist did come back and finish 2019, but he never got a proper thank you and/or send-off. The future of his playing career was uncertain at the time and he clearly has a lot to deal with now. His agent says his playing days are over now. He had an awesome career, and his stint with the Cubs will be remembered by fans for a long time. Not only for his accomplishments on the field, but also off the field, and the way he treated fans so well.
Stories of him signing autographs for everyone in front of his home, praying with an elderly woman with advanced Parkinson’s disease, and being there for fans when he was rehabbing in the minors. These are just a few examples.
He deserves a proper thank you and send-off to retirement. The Cubs really need to make that happen somehow, or at least try. It would be amazing for his former teammates and a packed house at Wrigley Field to all give him a big standing ovation. Banners, video board messages, signs, all reading, “Thanks Ben!” Do a cool video montage of people thanking Ben and highlights from his Cubs stint. Give him #18 off the old scoreboard. Call it, “Ben Zobrist Day” at the ballpark. Just rambling off ideas, but I think that would all be cool and the right thing to do.
I truly hope the Cubs brass has been there to help Zo out during these times. We do not know what goes on behind the scenes, but they seemed to make it clear that they think of the world of him and understood when he had to take a leave of absence. A perfect way to show that would be to honor him in my opinion on a special day.
Of course, it might be in Zobrist’s best interest to take care of all this personal stuff first before coming back into the public view. He also might want to just humbly lay low, and if that is the case, that is completely understandable. Best to do something when he is ready to. Who knows, said things could have been discussed already.
Heck, maybe there are other ways for the Cubs and fans to honor him while he stays a bit more private. Send him a video with people thanking him? Send him some sort of cool gift? Have a cool Zobrist-themed giveaway at Wrigley? There are so many different ideas that people can brainstorm. I just feel that regardless of the circumstances, there is a way for the Cubs and their fans to give Zobrist the honor he deserves. Whether it is an in-person ceremony at Wrigley or gift/tribute package to him. Not only as a way to thank him for his contribution to the team but to raise the spirits of a good man going through a really tough time.
Let’s make something happen, Cubs!