Today in our Clubhouse Convos we have Ben Zobrist, super utility man for the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only is Ben a great guy, he’s also a very talented switch hitter that can play just about any position on the field… and play it well. We appreciate Ben taking the time to hang out with Next Level Ballplayer to talk about: preparing for spring training, weaknesses he’s working on, the most important baseball lesson he’s ever learned and more.

High School:   Eureka (Eureka,IL)
College:  Dallas Baptist University, Olivet Nazarene University
Drafted:  6th Round by Houston Astros in 2004
MLB Debut: 8/1/2006
Abbreviated Resume: 2009 All-Star, 2009 Rays MVP, Finished 8th in the AL MVP Voting 2009, Played in 2008 World Series

What is the best baseball related lesson you learned early on, that’s led to your success over the years?
You have to make adjustments. You always have to be willing to change and make yourself better. It’s important to find your weaknesses and work on them and figure out new ways to make yourself a better ballplayer.

When did you know you were good enough to play pro ball?
My senior year of college when people told me I’d get drafted.

Personally, what do you do to get out of slumps at the plate?
Lots of things. It just depends. I start to focus on getting the right pitch. The most important thing is not to start over analyzing your swing.  Just try to get a pitch over the plate.

What is your mindset going into spring training this year?
Looking forward to getting to know some of the new guys and reconnecting with some of the other guys who I’ve gotten to know over the years.  It’s a time of preparation

Do you have any specific goals for spring training?
My goals are to have a solid approach at the plate and reestablish a solid routine at the plate that won’t change during the season.  I know what I want to do before every game and I want to start getting into that routine.

What are some of your weaknesses that you are trying to work on right now?
There are always things to work on. Right now I’m working on my mental and physical approach at the plate as well as my preparation before a game. In the past, a lot of times I’ve drained myself and over worked myself so I wasn’t ready and most efficient when the game time came. I’m learning to back that off even though I love the game of baseball and I want to always be working hard at it. There’s only so much you can do before you start getting diminishing returns.

Was it hard for you when you mentally when you signed your new contract in 2010?
Yeah, It definitely was a challenge because I want to meet expectations and not let anyone down. I’ve been given an opportunity and I want to do the best I can for the team because they’ve put their faith in me. You just have to realize that the game doesn’t change any just because you signed a new contract.

How would describe a good teammate?
A good teammate is someone who is not so self-absorbed that they can’t recognize what’s going on in someone else’s life and be a friend first.

Who is a player that makes you say wow?
Dustin Pedroia. He’s only 5 feet something and I wanna ask him how the heck he can hit the ball so far?

What advice would you give to ballplayers out there who want to take their game to the next level?
Focus on the level you’re at. Try to get better at the level you’re at.  Just be as good as you can be today, because you are never guaranteed tomorrow. Make the most out of today and play for a purpose beyond yourself.

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