It was a pivotal moment in Tom Zobrist’s life as a father, one that likely shaped the history of baseball.
“I don’t believe I’m done playing baseball yet, but if you think it’s the right thing for me to go to Calvary, I will go to Calvary,” his son, Ben, then 19, told his father.
Instead of gripping the reigns of fatherhood ever tighter, insisting his son attend his alma mater, Tom let go and said he let God do his thing.
Ben Zobrist would go on to play ball for Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, then onto a career in professional baseball that culminated in two World Series Championships and a 2016 World Series MVP award with the Chicago Cubs.
“I get a lot of credit for the success that my son, Ben, is currently enjoying,” Tom wrote in his book, “The Zobrist Family: Look What God Can Do.”
“The truth of the matter is that much of what Ben has achieved has been despite me, as opposed to because of me,” he wrote.
Tom, lead pastor of Liberty Bible Church in Eureka, was at the Eureka Public Library on April 30 to speak about his book and share his experiences as a parent; experiences that he believes brought with them lessons of humility.
He considers himself to have been an “overbearing” father who was often, reactive rather than proactive.
“I did offer him a lot of coaching. It feels like I was always telling him how he could do it better,” Tom admitted. “I’ve said, ‘I’m sorry I did that.’ Your kids are very forgiving. They love their parents as much as you love them. He’s said it made him work harder … ‘if you wouldn’t have pushed me,’ is how he puts it.”
On many occasions throughout his book, Tom cites examples in which he believes he was not a good example, that he maintained a negative attitude and that he was often controlling with his children. His son, Ben, sees it in a little less harsh lighting.
“You’ll see that my Dad did try, sometimes admittedly too hard, to teach me toughness and determination, but above all of that was a belief in walking with and trusting the God who can do anything …” Ben wrote in the book’s foreword. “In these pages, you will find a simple and candid expression of a parent who is grateful for what God can do with his own life.”
When Tom was 9, his father passed away unexpectedly, leaving him to develop the remainder of his fathering skills on his own.
“I was always very cognizant of losing my dad to an aneurysm. Life has no guarantees. I was his shadow and I had a really good relationship with him,” Tom said. “My mom remarried a few years later, and it was different having a a step dad. I wasn’t a Christian then and I was pretty rebellious. My mom struggled with disciplining us.”
Tom became a Christian in 1976, days after joining the Air Force when his wife Cindi, whom he’d just begun dating, became a born again Christian.
“I want to serve Jesus with my life. So, Tom, if you don’t want to do that, I don’t want to date you anymore,” Cindi said she recalls saying to Tom.
It’s through the grace of God, Tom said, not his own will, that lead to his and his family’s successes in life.
“All parents are going to make lots of mistakes, as well as their kids,” Tom wrote. “One of the amazing things that God does is that He continues to love us through our blunders … He forgives, restores and then directs us to the path on which He wants us to walk. Our responsibility is to stay moldable through the process.”
Tom’s book is available online through Tyndale House Publishers and on Amazon.com, or by stopping by Liberty Bible Church at 1408 Church Road in Eureka.
—– Tom Zobrist opens about letting go to let Ben live his dream —–