Its finally real. Ben Zobrist will no longer be in a Rays uniform. I knew it happened, but part of me was
expecting hoping he would still be in a Rays uniform this season. But on Sunday, this came across my twitter feed:
Ben Zobrist and his wife, Julianna, took out an ad in today's Tampa Bay Times. pic.twitter.com/YEejVA5W7j— Andrew Astleford (@aastleford) January 18, 2015
It's difficult to express the emotion I have felt since I got the call last Saturday afternoon that my time as a Tampa Bay Ray has come to a close. Bittersweet is the word that comes to mind. It's a mix of emotions ... There is the excitement for the next chapter in the Zobrist family baseball experience, but simultaneously there is an extreme sadness we feel about our friends and fans that we will not be seeing regularly this year. Although it is one of the greatest places to live, the special thing about Tampa Bay to me is the people that God has placed in my life here. It is no secret that I am vocal about my faith in Jesus Christ, and I count myself extremely blessed to have been sent to Tampa Bay in 2006 as a young prospect. I believe that God had a plan in it all and I am thankful that the Rays believed in me as a young player and gave me the opportunity to succeed in the Major Leagues.
I want to publicly thank my teammates, every one of them, from 2006 to 2014 ... from Ty Wigginton, the guy who helped teach me how to handle failure when I first got to the big leagues in 2006 all the way to Kevin Kiermaier, who made a splash with his hustle and acrobatics in 2014. And how could I not mention Longo who led our team into our winning ways as a rookie? The guy is a true pro and a great team leader. I owe a lot of my success to hitting in front of him in the lineup. He makes everyone around him on the field better. I have learned so much from watching all of you and winning with you guys. You are the competitors that will always leave the greatest mark on me as a Ballplayer and a person. Thank you fellas.
Gio thank you for being a mentor and guide for us. Words can't express my gratitude for the times you picked me up and kept all of us focused on the right perspective. Our work together is not done.
To the Tampa Bay Rays organization ... we never felt anything but love and appreciation from Stu and the ownership as well as from Andrew, Matt, Eric, Chaim and those who were in the front office while I was there. Thank you for the opportunity to be a Ray. Joe, Davey, Cuz, Fo, Shelty, Nelly, Hickory, Stan, and the rest of the coaching staff not only worked tirelessly to make sure we were prepared every day but made it fun to be in the clubhouse and the dugout for all 162. Thank you. Ron John, Hark Nation, Vin McMissile and training staff have to be the best in MLB. I can't thank you guys enough for caring and helping me stay on the field. Thank you to Westy, Papito and clubhouse staff ... You guys are awesome and have always treated my family and I like your own. RV, Dave, Carli and the PR/media staff make it as easy as it could be to live in the limelight as a pro athlete. Thank you. Brian and Ziggy and others have helped with family accommodations at home and on the road making it possible for our family to be together. Thank you. Suzanne, Jamie and many others have helped me with community relations and do a fantastic job of working with players and the community. From Rick and Dan and the stadium staff to Fred, Berte, Vinny, Doug and the rest of the security, you guys have made it feel like a family atmosphere at the stadium every day. Julianna and the kids have already said they will miss seeing you all as they make their way into the ballpark. I could try to name everyone but it would take up too much space in this paper. No one becomes a great player without great teammates and people that support and care about you both on and off the field and that is what you have done for the Zobrist family.
It is rare to have writers write so many nice things about us even though I'm sure they could easily find some negatives to write about. Thanks to Bill, Marc, Roger, Joe and the many others that have been so respectful to me and my family in and out of the clubhouse. You have supported and encouraged with your written words and made our time here as a Rays family, a joy.
And finally I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the Tampa Bay Rays fans. It is your excitement and love for this sport that made it possible for a young kid from Eureka, IL to feel the rush of running into a major league field like I did on August 1, 2006. Many of you have given us gifts, attended speaking or music events, greeted us around town with a kind word, or cheered me on at the games over the past 8 years. Though I won't remember everyone's name, I will remember the privilege and importance I felt in representing this community on the ballfield.
The Ray Way is a special way and will always be our MLB hometown.
In part, I'm glad this is difficult because it means it has impacted our hearts. I would be lying if I said there were no tears shed in the Zobrist household over leaving Tampa Bay. But rest assured they are due to gratitude rather than sadness. So during this bittersweet time, we will try to look forward to the coming season as much as possible even though part of our hearts will always be in Tampa Bay.
I will go on to give everything I can to help the Oakland A's win a championship now. You all know this in Tampa Bay ... I play to win everyday. It's how God wired me and how my parents taught me. After all, it's the only way I know how to play this game.
Thank you, Zo. You will truly be missed.