In divorce documents, Ben Zobrist says Julianna 'coaxed' him into returning to the Chicago Cubs, while she requests $4M of the $8M he forfeited while on leave

Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

“In March of 2019, wife had an affair with Mr. Yawn and admitted this relationship to husband in May of 2019. Although she did not admit the adultery until later.”

Ben Zobrist lays out a more detailed sequence of events in his pretrial filing. At an unspecified time in 2018, Ben began to notice that Julianna was “distracted and often not engaged with him or the family.”

Ben says Julianna asked him for space, and Yawn, when Ben asked for his advice as their marriage counselor, reinforced her request, he said.

According to the filing, Zobrist “looked at his wife’s cell phone records and realized that she was spending huge amounts of time virtually every day, beginning in August 2018, talking and texting with Pastor Byron Yawn.”

Zobrist cites that Julianna testified in her deposition that her relationship with Yawn “crossed the line” in September 2018. In either October or November, she “confessed her love for Pastor Yawn,” presumably to Yawn, though she doesn’t expressly say that in the brief.

Then in December 2018 — in a pivotal moment that Ben Zobrist calls the “genesis” of their split — Julianna threw a retirement party for Yawn, who was stepping away from his role as elder of Community Bible Church in Nashville to take on a more business-related position, according to Ben’s filing.

“The one-night party cost almost $30,000 and was conducted at the Zobrist farm,” according to the filing. “Mrs. Zobrist paid for the party out of the ‘farm account’ that her husband typically did not review, apparently to keep the cost of the party unknown to him. … Mrs. Zobrist and Pastor Yawn both became intoxicated and are dancing ‘on’ each other in a provocative way that was very embarrassing to Ben Zobrist, especially in front of their close church friends.

“Wife took umbrage at her husband’s rebuking her privately after the party for acting in this manner in public. However, unknown to husband, wife was already ‘in love’ with Pastor Yawn.”

According to a family spending report Ben Zobrist commissioned, financial advisers reported that Julianna’s spending began ramping up in 2018 and increased by as much as 174% by 2019.

In 2018, she averaged $24,000 per month in spending, including $12,500 for rent and $4,000 for furniture rental, until a court order limited her to $30,000 per month for living expenses. Total spending on clothing topped $134,000 in 2018 and $289,000 in 2019.

In spring 2019, Ben Zobrist was preparing for a “long grueling season with the Chicago Cubs at a time when wife was changing and acting differently. He reluctantly left for Spring Training Camp, wife finally admitted (after Pastor Yawn’s now ex-wife caught them talking) directly to husband that she was having an ‘emotional affair’ with Pastor Yawn.”

Ben Zobrist was alerted to the affair in May 2019 by Robin Yawn and was “devastated” and “simply could not play baseball while his marriage and family were in limbo.”

Zobrist asked the Cubs for a leave of absence, and they placed him on the restricted list on May 8.

“Rather than take up a roster spot that could be taken by another player, husband took a leave of absence from the team. This decision cost him about $8 million,” according to Zobrist’s brief. The Cubs recalled Addison Russell from Triple-A Iowa.

Julianna Zobrist filed for divorce May 13, 2019, in Cook County, then later withdrew. Ben filed for legal separation the same day in Tennessee.


The couple decided to put the divorce on hold and entered an agreed order to attend counseling. Ben Zobrist contends that Julianna kept in contact with Yawn “despite her promises to the contrary, and purchased a burner phone to do so, which she discarded after using it to hide evidence of such.”

Julianna Zobrist admits in a previous filing that she acquired a disposable phone in June 2019, used it to communicate with Yawn, “then threw the phone away in an airport in New York City.” Also, when she received a new phone after changing service providers, it allowed her to get “rid of her phone that contained the nude photos and text messages that she had sent to Yawn.”

Also, “by Pastor Yawn’s own admission during his deposition, he too spoliated evidence … under the dubious claim that his cellular phone ‘fell out of his pocket’ into a puddle as he was crossing 21st Street to go to a restaurant and was run over by a vehicle,” and he had regularly deleted text messages, according to Ben Zobrist’s memorandum.

“Incredulously, wife sent a text message to Pastor Yawn while watching his testimony in his deposition via Zoom, telling him ‘You’re killing it. I knew you would’ as he was being questioned about his inappropriate relationship with wife and his spoliated electronic device.”

Ben Zobrist’s baseball career was on pause during most of May and all of June, July and August 2019 while the couple went through counseling, though Julianna was “continuing her sexual affair while the parties were attending marital counseling.”

Meanwhile, “Mrs. Zobrist … coaxed her husband into returning to the Chicago Cubs in the late summer and fall of 2019, during which he earned another $4 million.”

The Cubs activated Ben Zobrist from the restricted list Sept. 1, and he played the final 21 games of the season.

Starting at second base, he went 0-for-3 and pitched a scoreless eighth inning with two walks and a strikeout during a 9-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 29 at Busch Stadium, his 47th game of the season and the 1,651st of his career, according to

Zobrist says in his brief that his “Major League Baseball career is over.”

“It appears that one of wife’s main motives in concealing her affair with Pastor while participating in marriage counseling was to coax husband back into playing baseball so he could further enrich the marital estate in which wife is expected to receive significant sums of money once the court equitably divides the estate,” Ben Zobrist alleges in his memorandum. “One would be hard pressed to concoct a more deceitful, sinister, and otherwise inappropriate scheme than wife has devised in this divorce matter.

“Therefore wife is going to claim, in order to complete her scheme, that husband ‘dissipated’ the marital estate when he decided to take a leave of absence so that the parties could work on the marriage. Again, it is difficult to fathom a more disingenuous argument when it was wife, who knew full well that she had no intent in repairing the marriage, even attended marriage counseling in bad faith while continuing her affair with Pastor Yawn.”

Ben Zobrist’s filing adds, “Wife’s scheme did not pan out as she had hoped as husband soon retired from baseball.”

Finally, on June 3, 2020, in answer to Ben Zobrist’s formal “request for admissions,” Julianna was “forced to admit her affair was not just ‘emotional,’ but also physical.”

Ben Zobrist requests that the judge weigh whether Julianna is at fault for his leave of absence and its cost to the couple’s bottom line.

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