12/11/2009 12:35 PM ET
Ben Zobrist: Detour to the Majors
2009 All-Star nearly left the game after high school
There's no blueprint that shows you how to make it to the big leagues, play in the World Series and be named to the American League All-Star team. I guess I'm living proof of that.
Growing up in Eureka, Ill., I played baseball in high school pretty much like everybody else in our clubhouse. Once my senior year ended, though, I thought my playing days had come to an end. In retrospect, I guess I didn't think too much of it really.
I loved the game, but I was just getting ready to go to a bible college and take that next step in my life. I was going to attend Calvary Bible College, and I hoped to become a youth minister.
When you grow in a small town like that, you don't really think about scouts or college coaches coming to watch your baseball games. You just play, and the last thing in your mind is preparing a videotape of yourself playing to send off to colleges or scouts.
But then something fortunate happened: My high school coach told me about a local baseball tryout camp with people from some small colleges watching. I decided to go, and after I paid the $50 entry fee -- money I had leftover from my 19th birthday -- before I knew it, I had a scholarship to Olivet Nazarene University in my native Illinois.
Even though I assumed after my final high school game that baseball was over for me, there was a part of me that wanted to keep trying to play. Once I got to Olivet, I ended up playing there for three years and it was a lot of fun.
One of the highlights came when we advanced to the World Series at the NAIA level. I also pitched, which wasn't my favorite position. The level of talent was pretty good, but before my senior year, I decided to transfer to Dallas Baptist University in Texas.
It was good timing. Their baseball program was elevating to the Division I level, I could play shortstop, and I hadn't been drafted. After my one year at Dallas Baptist, the Astros drafted me.
As I look back on that journey, I really feel as if everything fell in place for a reason. In all, I feel as if I have truly been blessed.
Ben Zobrist emerged as a star with the Rays in 2009. An All-Star for the first time, Zobrist hit 27 homers and drove in 91 runs while splitting time between second base and right field.