Longtime MLB player Ben Zobrist accused his pastor of having an extramarital affair with his wife and defrauding his charity, former Chicago Cubs star said in explosive court case in Tennessee.
Zobrist, the 2016 World Series MVP who led the Cubs to their first championship in 108 years, said Byron Yawn was senior pastor at Community Bible Church in Nashville when in the spring of 2019, “he started meeting her ( Zobrist’s wife) for sex, ”according to the civil complaint filed in May.
All the while, Yawn was acting as an advisor to the couple, allegedly helping them overcome their marital difficulties, Zobrist said. At one point in 2019, Yawn even advised Zobrist to “give his wife space” in spurious advice aimed at “selfish advantage,” the lawsuit said.
“The defendant secretly maintained a sexually intimate relationship with the plaintiff’s wife during the remainder of 2019 and until the spring of 2020, while hiding it from the plaintiff, his lawyer,” according to the circuit court lawsuit filed in the 12th judicial district. of Tennessee.
The lawsuit also stated that Yawn had become active in Zobrist’s “Patriot Forward” charity and used her role in that organization “as an excuse to meet the plaintiff’s wife” from the fall of 2018.
“In December 2018, the defendant wrote his own job description as an executive director, getting involved in all facets of the plaintiff’s charity,” the lawsuit continued. “When the Respondent started meeting the Complainant’s wife for sex in the spring of 2019, he was still the Executive Director of Patriot Forward. “
In September 2018, Yawn submitted a budget proposal for the charity that included an annual salary of $ 36,000 for himself, according to the lawsuit.
The charity fired Yawn in March 2019 when he was making $ 3,500 a month, Zobrist said. But despite his dismissal, “Mr. Yawn somehow continued to fraudulently receive salary checks until May 2019 and he cashed those checks knowing full well that his position had been terminated,” he said. declared the player’s civil complaint.
Zobrista accused Yawn of “violating his fiduciary duty” as pastor and head of the charity and “intentionally inflicting emotional distress”.
The former great player is claiming $ 3 million in compensatory damages and $ 3 million in punitive damages.
“At the end of the day, a woman has the right to choose who she wants to be with,” Yawn’s attorney Christopher Bellamy told the Chicago Tribune on Monday. “We’re in the middle of a 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 that the truth be heard, and so we will do it through the court process,” he added.
The player’s wife Julianna Zobrist and Yawn did not immediately return several NBC News messages seeking comment on Tuesday.
Zobrist entered the big leagues in 2006 with Tampa Bay before later joining the Oakland A’s, Kansas City Royals and Cubs. He played a key role in the Royals’ world title race in 2015.
He signed as a free agent with the Cubs ahead of Chicago’s historic 2016 campaign. Zobrist was named World Series MVP that season, averaging .357 in those seven games and helping the Cubs to beat the Cleveland Indians to break the longest title drought in major US professional sports.
His last season dates back to 2019 in a campaign marked by an absence of several months from early May to early September. The team said Zobrist was dealing with personal matters off the pitch.
Ben Zobrist filed for divorce from his wife on May 13, 2019, according to court records in Cook County, Illinois. He also filed for divorce in Tennessee around the same time, the player’s lawyer Larry Crain said.
Now 40 and away from baseball for nearly two seasons, Zobrist spends most of his time working with his charity, providing spiritual and financial support to MLB prospects, according to his lawyer.
“He’s trying to make the most of his career helping others, helping young minor league players,” Crain told NBC News on Tuesday. “This is what he is dedicated to, to move forward. “
Throughout his long career, the Dallas Baptist University alumnus became a prototype of modern baseball, filling statistical categories that had not been valued in previous generations of the sport.
He skillfully played in multiple positions (the four infield spots and the three outfield positions) and contributed effectively to home plate, drawing walks and hitting home runs. Zobrist finished his career with 167 homers, a batting average of 0.266, a base percentage of 0.357 and a stroke percentage of 0.426.