Pittsburgh Pirates

In Step With: Rays SS Ben Zobrist

Each day during spring training, Bradenton Herald staff writers will catch up with a Pirates or Rays player for a quick glimpse of things you might not know, and some things you won't find on the back of a baseball card.

Name: Ben Zobrist

Position: Utility. The Rays are trying to convert Zobrist, last year’s Opening Day shortstop, into a utility fielder this year, meaning he will play infield and outfield.

Years with team: Three.

MLB experience: 166 days.

Stats last season: .155 Avg., 1 HR, 9 RBI.

Height: 6-foot-3 .

Weight: 200 pounds.

Date of birth: May 26, 1981 in Eureka, Ill.

Childhood heroes/baseball inspirations: Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and Zobrist's dad, who coach him through Little League.

Hobbies/Interests: Read historical and Christian books, spending time outdoors. “I like to mow my lawn in the offseason.”

Nickname: Z, Zob, Zoby.

Favorite movies: “The Natural.”

What’s on your iPod (musical tastes): “I have a lot of sermons on there. I listen to sermons more than I listen to music.”

Favorite TV show: SportsCenter.

Favorite pregame meal: None. “I’m not big on something specific. What ever is there.”

First baseball memory: First big league game. A young Ben Zobrist and his family attended a Kansas City Royals game. “The fireworks blasting overhead. I was bawling my eyes out because I was scared. I was like 2 years old. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Baseball superstitions: None. “I have a routine, but no superstitions.”

Most painful moment: Zobrist tore his meniscus in his right knee while playing Single-A ball. “I was rounding first base, and it felt like it dislocated.”

Funniest teammate: Rookie outfielder Jon Weber. “I’m laughing a lot at Jon Weber right now.”

First car: 1981 Ford F-150 pickup. White and royal blue. Got the car when he turned 17.

Baseball player (past or present) you’d like to meet: Honus Wagner. “There’s not much out there on him. There’s no video footage of him. I would love to have seen him hit. I would have loved learning the things he’s learned, because he started off playing a lot of different positions. He knew the game so well. And in his era, people weren’t hitting near what he was hitting, and they were able to throw all sorts of stuff, spitballs, shine balls. The balls were crusted up, and he was still able to hit the way he did.”

Favorite athletes to watch: Michael Jordan.