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Column: What's next in the Ben Zobrist lawsuit alleging an affair between his wife and pastor?

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Almost two years after he played his final major-league baseball game, Ben Zobrist might be in the news more than ever.

The Eureka native is in the process of divorcing his wife, Julianna. Zobrist also is suing his family's former pastor for $6 million. The ex-Chicago Cubs player accused Byron Yawn of having an affair with Julianna Zobrist and defrauding his charity.

Zobrist also shed one of his residences, but apparently didn't shed the World Series ring he won in 2016 with the Cubs. He was World Series MVP as he helped lead the Cubs to their first Fall Classic title in 108 years.

Here's a recap and some new information about what's been happening with Zobrist, what might happen and how the world is reacting to it.

No hearings or trials in Zobrist's lawsuit were scheduled as of Thursday, according to Chelsia Stone of the Davidson County (Tenn.) Circuit Court Clerk's Office.

Zobrist's attorneys filed the lawsuit May 6 in Nashville, Tenn., near where Zobrist resides. Among other things, the lawsuit accuses Yawn of using his role as a minister and counselor to foster an illicit sexual relationship with Julianna Zobrist.

Yawn also was accused of drawing at least $7,000 in salary fraudulently from Patriot Forward, a not-for-profit organization Zobrist founded to help ex-professional athletes transition to their next stage of life. Yawn held various positions with the charity.

Ben Zobrist

Ben Zobrist after scoring a run in 2016. Almost two years after he played his final major-league baseball game, Ben Zobrist is in the process of divorcing his wife, Julianna. Zobrist also is suing his family's former pastor for $6 million.

The Zobrists are undergoing a divorce. Petitions the two have filed in Williamson County, Tenn., are pending.

Ben Zobrist spent 13 years in the big leagues, including four seasons with the Cubs. He last played in 2019. He also was part of the 2015 Kansas City Royals team that won the World Series.

Last week, the Journal Star was the first to report about Zobrist's accusations against Yawn, the CEO of a Nashville-area business-consulting firm.

Yawn also was a pastor and elder at Community Bible Church in Nashville. He no longer is affiliated with that church.

According to Williamson County online court records, Yawn and his wife, Robin, were granted a divorce March 30. Both of them filed in June 2020.

Byron Yawn's attorney in the Zobrist case is Nashville-based Christopher Bellamy. He did not return a Journal Star request Wednesday for comment.

Earlier, Bellamy spoke with the Chicago Tribune about Zobrist's lawsuit.

"At the end of the day, a woman has the right to choose who she wants to be with," Bellamy said. "We're in the middle of litigation, so I can't really comment further at this point, but that's what it boils down to.

"My client deserves his day in court and for the truth to be heard, and so we're going to do that through the court process."

The story has received national and international attention. Yahoo Sport Australia even posted a story, complete with spellings changed to conform with that country's version of English ("counselling" with two L's, for example).

Julianna and Ben Zobrist

Julianna Zobrist greets her husband Ben Zobrist after she sang the National Anthem on Memorial Day at Wrigley Field on May 30, 2016.

Stateside, the BroBible website put its own considerable spin on the Zobrist situation. It convicted Yawn (and Julianna Zobrist) before his case went to trial, with limited acknowledgement the lawsuit makes only allegations.

"You've got to feel so bad for the former Chicago Cubs player, who was manipulated through all of this," BroBible Senior Editor Nick Dimengo wrote. "What a bunch of cowards both Julianna Zobrist and this Byron Yawn guy are.

"There is scum, then there are these two, who are a whole new breed of trash in order to scheme up such a lie."

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey used the Zobrist case to criticize those who espouse a "stick to sports" philosophy for athletes and those who cover them in the media. That mantra has become popular as sports figures increasingly have promoted political or social agendas.

"Think of all the topics that pop up that can't be contained by the white lines of a field," Morrissey wrote. "Athletes who get into trouble with the law. College athletes who want to get paid for their name, image and likeness. Pro athletes who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

"Here's the thing: Life is messy, and sports, being something of a reflection of life, is messy, too. To think that sports can be penned up and told to stay put like an obedient pet is ridiculous."

Morrissey acknowledged Zobrist's marital problems affected his status with the Cubs. It can be argued Zobrist's four-month absence from the team, which he took to deal with those personal issues, affected how the Cubs played in 2019.

Chicago finished third in its division and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.

That would seem to make the Zobrist story very much about sports directly — unlike, say, NBA star LeBron James speaking out (or tweeting out) about police brutality.

Meanwhile, the Zobrists have cut perhaps their most tangible tie with Chicago.

For $2 million, they sold their six-bedroom Queen Anne-style house in the city's North Center neighborhood, just west of Wrigley Field, the Cubs' home stadium. The house was put on the market in January.

In April, the Tribune reported the house's sale.

The Zobrists purchased the 3,500-square-foot house in early 2016 from its builder. The sale price was $1.84 million, the Trib reported.

In November 2016 — the day after the Cubs won the World Series — Ben Zobrist chatted with and signed autographs for fans who gathered outside that Chicago residence.

About one month after Ben Zobrist filed his lawsuit against Yawn, multiple reports had the baseball player selling his 2016 World Series ring at auction.

Zobrist's ring was believed to be the first from that World Series to be sold. But Zobrist's agent, Scott Pucino, said news of the sale surprised Zobrist.

"He's not selling it," Pucino told the Tribune. "I said, 'Are you sure you're not selling it?' He said 'No, it makes no sense. Why would I sell this ring? It makes no sense. I'm never going to get rid of this ring — never, never, ever.'"

Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan tweeted a photograph, dated June 6, of Zobrist holding a World Series ring with his surname emblazoned on it.

It looked a lot like the ring in the photo Heritage Auctions of Dallas tweeted in announcing the sale. Heritage spokesman Robert Wilonsky appeared stumped.

"He may have it," Wilonsky told The Kansas City Star regarding Zobrist. "I mean, until we see Zobrist's ring, and I've asked to see the paperwork from the consigner, it's possible (Zobrist) had a duplicate ring made. There's any number of possible answers to the question."

In a brief interview Thursday with the Journal Star, Wilonsky said the Heritage investigation was ongoing.

"Sometimes these things take longer to get to the bottom of than you might have expected going into it," he said. "We want to make sure we take all the right steps to make sure we have all the correct information."

Wilonsky suggested he hopes for a resolution before the National Sports Collectors Convention begins July 28 in Rosemont.


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