By Andrew Preston
When it comes to attending the World Series, Trevecca baseball coach Ryan Schmalz has something most baseball fans don’t: experience and a friend.
Schmalz, now entering his fifth season with the Trojans, was on the field with his friend and former college baseball teammate, Ben Zobrist, celebrating after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
“I was allowed on the field for the celebration. It was really chaotic. There was an incredible amount of media,” said Schmalz. “Ben was pulled in a 1,000 different directions for interviews and such, I didn’t get to talk to him a whole lot. I had my chance to see him, say a few words, hug and pray with him, but that was it.”
Being on the field after the Cubs won the 2016 pennant was Schmalz’s third time to be at a world series to support his friend.
“In 2008 when the Rays played the Phillies I got a chance to go to a game when Ben (Zobrist) was in Tampa. Last year I went to New York to see the Royals play the Mets,” he said.
Watching his friend play in Game 7 of the World Series, which went into extra innings, was nerve racking for Schmalz.
“It was incredible. It was an electric environment. It was really hard to watch when you know somebody out there. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time,” he said.
Zobrist drove in the eventual game-winning run for the Cubs in the top of the 10th inning. The Cubs won the game 8-7, giving the franchise its first World Series in 108 years and earning Zobrist the MVP award for the series.
Schmalz and Zobrist played together at Olivet Nazarene University for three seasons and were in each other’s weddings after graduation.
“Ben has always been a very intense competitor, he was one of our best players (at Olivet), I thought he had a chance to play professionally, but it never crossed my mind that one day he would be the World Series MVP,” said Schmalz.
After each other’s weddings, Schmalz and Zobrist’s lives went in different directions, but they reconnected when they both moved back to middle Tennessee.
During the MLB offseason, Zobrist makes his home in the Nashville area and has on occasion used Trevecca’s athletic facilities.
“He doesn’t use them on a regular basis, more of a handful of days over the past several years. There have been times when he comes and hangs out with the guys and will get a workout in,” said Schmalz.
The one aspect that Schmalz admires most of his friend is his faith.
“He sees the platform of being a professional baseball player as an opportunity to share his faith. To share the Gospel with people is his priority. People like that are rare,” said Schmalz.
The gruesome six-month baseball season wears down most players. Zobrist gains strength from his family and his faith, Schmalz said.
“It’s easy to look at what Ben has accomplished on the field, but he is one of the humblest, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. He cares far more about his faith and his family than he does for baseball,” he said. “He’s a great friend.”