Posts Tagged ‘Ben Zobrist’


Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Photo via Google Image search

The very title of this blog entry contains the name of two of my heroes and a baseball team that for years has tried the patience of many and disappointed more than a few. Ben Zobrist is my favorite baseball player in the major leagues for a myriad of reasons. I was broken-hearted when the Rays traded him, even more so when it was to the Oakland Athletics. Last week I delighted in seeing Ben  shining once again on the diamond like a diamond. From midseason with the Kansas City Royals, Ben proved his staying power and then hit the home run in the final game with the Blue Jays his first time at bat,  often coming through in the clutch. Throughout the playoffs, Ben Zobrist was the consummate utility player, capable of playing at almost any position on the field, save catcher, and doing it well. He has always been and remains a player for all fans.

He and his wife are deeply devoted and committed Christians. They believe in God, live each day by God’s law and embrace the person of Jesus Christ as their savior. They make no bones about their Christian faith but they never boast or brag about it. Rather they live it. While among us here in Tampa, Ben visited the classrooms of children in what we now refer to as  ” failing schools”, giving them encouragement and hope. He could be seen from time to time at All Children’s’ Hospital spreading his message of mercy, hope and happiness. His priorities were always in this order, his faith, his family and baseball. Now he is off to the Big Show, baseball’s equivalent of the Catholic Church’s just now completed Synod on the Family. Read the book written by he and his wife, Julianna, (Doubleplay) and you will immediately notice the comparisons. The Zobrists live a family life lived with an abundance of mercy and forgiveness.

He reminds me in some ways of Pope Francis who had the courage to call these last two synod meetings to discuss both the family and family life in our day. This Pope understands the challenges of living in the real world and the necessity of the Church moving to understand, embrace and support those most in need of our presence and help, precisely as Church. Six weeks of his time in the past thirteen months have been spent listening to bishops from around the world describe the challenges of marriage and the family, from Africa to Asia to the Americas and all points in between. He listened, spoke only rarely but when needed forcefully, and I believe the Pope received from the assembled exactly what he wanted: namely enough room to take on some of the more challenging aspects of marriage and family life in our day in the months ahead. He did not ask for, want and probably would not have countenanced doctrinal change. Rather, he asked those present to hang out the dirty laundry of living marriage in this age and increasingly secular society and instead of condemning it, give him room to apply his two fold commitments to the applications of mercy and forgiveness.

I wasn’t there and most of the world’s bishops were not there either. No one who was there from the United States, nor did our national episcopal conference, ask for my guidance or that of the body of bishops as to how we felt about the problems and their possible solutions, but the Holy Father did in 2013. Yet I believe the innermost longings of my heart for my Church were spoken and heard. I have been on a three-week high just because that reality was finally being discussed and dissected. Who could ask for anything more?


Photo via Google Image search.

Pope Francis is a utility infielder capable of playing any position which will help his church race across the three pastoral bases: mercy, forgiveness, healing which will ultimately end in a home run for God’s people. And the Church today, Sunday, October 25, 2016 is like the New York Mets. Good things do come to those who patiently watch, wait, renew, rebuild, change managers, and eventually make it to the previously unthought-of – in baseball, the World Series, and in ecclesiology adapting to the present without forsaking the past.

Photo via @newsva Instagram

Photo via @newsva Instagram

Here are some take-home words from our manager as he sent his team home this morning, leaving to himself how to take advantage of all the possibilities and openings the Synod has given him:

This is the temptation: a “spirituality of illusion:” we can walk through the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead we see what we want to see. We are capable of developing views of the world, but we do not accept what the Lord places before our eyes. A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of the people remains arid and, rather and oases, creates other deserts.

Moments of suffering and conflict are for God occasions of mercy. Today is a time of mercy!

Pope Francis is an incredible leader. He has the serenity of a man who does not worry about petty bickering but places great trust in the presence of the Spirit in all people, friend or foe. He got precisely what he wanted from these two gatherings – an opening to further his and our ministry of mercy, which is I believe, precisely what Jesus would want of his Church. I am in charge of the triage unit in these five counties and together with our priests, deacons, religious and laity, we shall step up our desire to stop the bleeding, heal the hurting, and show all that the Church is like the Mets, rising to the national championship of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and mercy. It is what the “emergency room” doctor, Pope Francis, asks of us at the end of the listening.

We are a family, sometimes dysfunctional but also desirous of welcoming more and more back, or for the first time to the family table of the Eucharist. The Synod was merely grace before meals for the Church family. Bless us O Lord for these your gifts, which we have received through your goodness and through Christ, our Lord.



Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

It’s past time for a little light relief in this space. A number of things happened outside of the life of the Church in recent days to set me thinking about the topic contained in the title to this blog entry.

First, there was the announcement that my favorite baseball player had been traded by my favorite baseball team – BEN ZOBRIST. That news was a bitter pill and hard to swallow. Like most RAYS fans, we hated saying good-bye to David Price two-thirds of the way through last season and it was really hard to realize that the team’s future would not include Andrew Friedman who I always thought was a “genius” and Joe Madden who I have long held was the best manager in baseball. But I took comfort that this year we would still have “Gentle Ben” and “Longo”. Especially the former.

I loved watching Ben Zobrist play baseball. But I loved even more Ben Zobrist watching with pride and love as his wife Julianna would occasionally sing the National Anthem before a Rays game. It was clear to me that he loved her more than he loved baseball as he shot her a sign of that love at the end of the song.  I sat in the waiting room of my doctor who was also Ben’s family doctor when one day he and she brought the children to the office. It was clear to me then that he loved his children even more than he loved baseball. And it has always been clear to me that Ben Zobrist loved God more than he loved baseball as he was ever ready to appear at a local Church to show the kids that real men could indeed love God and have faith.

Then I read their book, Double Play, co-authored by both which told the story of their meeting, their falling in love, their challenges living with the vagaries of professional sports. To me Ben Zobrist is not just a great baseball player but a great example for kids and adults. Toward the end of last season, a friend of mine whose father, a retired Florida judge, asked if I might secure an autographed baseball since his Dad attended the same Protestant Church in Eureka, Illinois where Ben’s Dad is pastor. I asked our common doctor and he approached Ben who gladly did it with a lovely inscription – more than just an autograph.

Madden gave him the nickname “Zorilla” but for me he will always be a great witness to love for and faith in Christ, a great husband and father, and a steady student of the fine art of baseball in all its manifestations. I personally will greatly miss him. I wish him well always and hope and pray that I will be found worthy to meet him again in heaven.

Having lived in Columbus, Ohio from 1957 until 1972, and also having attended the Ohio State University, the Buckeyes kept me up later last night than usual and I rejoiced at their convincing victory. Urban Meyer is a serious Catholic as well as a fine leader of men and football coach. I was happy for him and for his team.

I don’t have a dog in the NFL hunt though I am developing a great appreciation for Aaron Rodgers. I think I am going to need someone in the pro-ranks to root for as it appears that Peyton Manning may soon be fading from the scene. I will switch my quarterback allegiance, however, in a nanosecond if the Bucs draft Marcus Mariota, a truly gifted athlete for whom narcissism is simply a Greek root and humility is genuine and deeply appreciated.

Here I have mentioned men of discipline, character and faith. We need more of them – in life, in the Church, and in professional sports. By the way, a special prize to anyone who can tell me in the comment section the context of the title to this blog!