Ben Zobrist’s dirty laundry is getting aired out.
Zobrist, who retired from a 14-season MLB career in March 2020, learned that his wife was having an affair with their pastor, according to court documents that surfaced last week. The same minister is also accused of defrauding Zobrist’s charity, where he was employed.
The 40-year-old ex-infielder seeks $6 million in damages from Byron Yawn, the CEO of Forrest Crain & Co., a Nashville-area business-consulting firm. Yawn is a former pastor and an elder at Community Bible Church in Nashville, where he met Zobrist and his wife, Julianna.
Zobrist, a two-time World Series winner, filed the lawsuit in May through a Tennessee circuit court. The Peoria Journal Star obtained a copy of the court documents last week.
Yawn had begun talking daily with Julianna through burner phones in 2018, and a sexual relationship between the two began a year later. Ben Zobrist took a four-month leave from the Cubs in 2019 to address his marital problems after Robin Yawn, pastor Yawn’s wife, informed Zobrist about what she believed to be only an emotional relationship between their spouses in May 2019. During that span of time, he lost $8 million in income, according to the lawsuit.
Yawn provided the couple with marriage counseling in 2019 and counseled the 2016 World Series MVP on dealing with his anxiety and depression.
It was not until June 2020 when Zobrist learned that his wife had a sexual relationship with their minister, according to the lawsuit. Julianna admitted that she lied to her husband about the nature of the affair in a written admission in their divorce proceedings.
Ben Zobrist filed for divorce in May 2019 and Julianna Zobrist filed a counter-complaint in March 2020; both cases are still pending.
The Zobrists, who got married in 2005, have three children together.
During the period when their marriage began to deteriorate, Zobrist was discussing his marital troubles with Byron Yawn, who encouraged him to give his wife some space. According to text messages between the two, Julianna Zobrist had been speaking to divorce lawyers.
“She used the words emotional, verbal and spiritual abuse. I was shocked,” Zobrist texted. “Can’t be 2,000 miles away from her and kids while she’s thinking that about me. I have owned every bit of my sin, but I will not own the abuse angle.”
“I’m sure it’s like getting knocked off your feet and into your head. But I can’t imagine what it feels like in this moment. Your (sic) a husband and a father first. That’s who you are,” Yawn responded.
Yawn used his personal relationship with Zobrist to rise in the ranks of Patriot Forward, a not-for-profit organization the latter had begun to promote better mental health support and career development for athletes. Before his termination in March 2019, Yawn had become the group’s executive director.
For the next two months, Yawn continued to pay himself $7,000 in salary. The lawsuit does not mention how this occurred, just that the salary checks were fraudulent.
Moreover, Zobrist donated between $10,000 and $15,000 specifically to the Yawn family for a pastoral trip. In addition, he donated $10,000 each month to Community Bible Church.
“Mr. Yawn often capitalized on the Plaintiff’s celebrity,” the lawsuit stated, “asking him to sign autographs for his mother-in-law; requesting tickets to baseball games; hosting ‘Guys Night Out’ for the church at Mr. Zobrist’s home; (requesting) that Mr. Zobrist send personal videos to parishioners who were being baptized; and nominating Mr. Zobrist as a deacon of Community Bible Church in hopes that his celebrity would attract new parishioners and keep current parishioners.”
According to the Community Bible Church, Byron Yawn is no longer affiliated.