CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist's focus has always been on his family over everything else, and his decision to be away from the team for nearly four months made that apparent. After being reinstated from the restricted list by the Cubs on Saturday night, Zobrist hopes he can still help the
CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist's focus has always been on his family over everything else, and his decision to be away from the team for nearly four months made that apparent. After being reinstated from the restricted list by the Cubs on Saturday night, Zobrist hopes he can still help the club down the stretch.
“I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to be back in the clubhouse with the guys,” Zobrist said. “Wrigley Field is a special place, so any time you get a chance to be here, I don’t take it for granted.”
Zobrist, 38, has been away from the team since May 8 while going through a divorce and has been with his children at his home in Nashville during the absence. While the decision was a surprise for many, it was an easy one for him to make.
“I knew, at that moment, there was no way I could be here and be focused while I was here,” Zobrist said. “I didn’t want to give half-effort while I was here and think about where my head and heart really were. So I knew for a period of time I needed to fully put myself back in Nashville, back at home with my family doing everything I could to keep my family together.
“That was my focus. That’s where my heart was at the time and that’s where my heart remains. I’m here now, because I feel that in my heart while I’m here at the field can put 100 percent into it and I can really get after it with my teammates. I’m looking forward to that push right here down the stretch.”
Prior to Sunday’s series finale against Milwaukee, Zobrist told reporters that he returned to the team briefly in June to keep his teammates updated and aware of what had been going on in his personal life. Despite not knowing if or when he would return, being upfront with “the guys” on where things stood was also a no-brainer.
“That was of primary importance, to tell them how I was and just asking for them to be patient with the process personally for me and, if I could, try to get back with them,” Zobrist said. “They don’t need me by any stretch of the imagination, but they always made me feel wanted. That they wanted me back … that’s all you want from your teammates.”
Those teammates have sung Zobrist's praises for the last several months. During the highs and lows of the 2019 season, when looking for something that has been missing, the 2016 World Series Most Valuable Player’s name has often come up first.
“It’s good to have him. I’ve been saying the whole time, since we found out that he was going on a rehab assignment, that we were all excited,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “He’s the veteran. He’s done it for a while. It’s just good to have him.”
“He came in to say hello to me. He looks great,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a very self-aware man. When he [left the team] it did not surprise me in the least. I didn’t know if he’d be back or if he’d just say, ‘This is it.’ The way he’s done all of this, that’s just who he is.”
Zobrist’s long-awaited return to the Cubs comes at a time when the team could use his calm demeanor, veteran leadership and skills on the field.
While Zobrist didn’t rule out possible retirement at the end of the 2019 season or in the near future, he’s fully committed to the opportunity to return and is appreciative of the organization for allowing him a chance to figure things out.
“I haven’t made a full decision on retirement yet or anything like that,” Zobrist said. “But I do know that the time is coming soon for me to put all my focus on my kids’ activities and those things.
“I’m fortunate that [the Cubs] gave me the time that they gave me and then still wanted me back. Other things could’ve happened and they could have picked up other guys in the meantime and not needed me, but the fact that there’s still a spot in September for me, that’s why I’m here. To see what I can bring to the club and see if there’s anything I can add to the playoff push here.”
Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.