Byron Yawn manipulated Ben Zobrist into giving Julianna Zobrist space while having affair with her
Major League Baseball player Ben Zobrist’s allegations against Byron Yawn, a pastor who he claims had an affair with his wife Julianna Zobrist, go beyond adultery. The athlete, who retired from a 14-season MLB career in March 2020, and who filed a $6 million lawsuit against Yawn, claimed that the pastor manipulated him and created distance between him and Julianna under the guise of counseling their marriage.
As per the lawsuit in May 2021 through a Tennessee circuit court, Yawn, “while acting in his capacity as pastoral counselor to” the Zobrists, “usurped this ministerial-counselor role, violated and betrayed the confidence entrusted to him by” Ben and “deceitfully used his access as counselor to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship” with Julianna.
Ben and Julianna got married in 2005. This was around the same time they allegedly met Yawn, a former pastor and an elder at Community Bible Church in Nashville. In fact, Yawn allegedly performed pre-marital counseling for the couple in 2005.
The lawsuit alleged that in 2007, and again in 2016-2017, Ben Zobrist entered into counseling with Yawn “with respect to certain struggles he was encountering with anxiety and depression.” It also stated that Ben and Julianna “regularly sought the advice and counsel of” Yawn as their pastor and counselor in how to “strengthen their marriage relationship” in 2013, and were involved in counseling offered through Yawn's church “dealing with pornography.”
“Commencing in August of 2018. Mr Yawn began having regular conversations with the Plaintiff's wife, Julianna Zobrist on a daily basis,” the suit stated. “Unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, in September of 2018, during the time that he was providing pastoral counseling to Mr Zobrist, the Defendant also began secretly pursuing an intimate relationship with Mr Zobrist's wife. The Defendant's romantic involvement with Ms Zobrist escalated in the spring of 2019. when he began meeting her for sex.”
Yawn secretly maintained a sexually intimate relationship with Julianna for the remainder of 2019 and into the spring of 2020, the suit alleged, all the while concealing it from Ben. Yawn also allegedly encouraged Julianna to “keep secret from her husband the true nature of her relationship with Mr Yawn” through "burner phones".
While acting in a pastoral role toward Ben and his wife, the lawsuit alleged, Yawn gained access to personal and private information — he became aware of “small fissures in the marital relationship” and exploited this private information. In 2019, Yawn allegedly encouraged Ben to "give his wife some space". All the while, he was allegedly using the confidential information shared with him by Ben to his own “self-seeking advantage and in derogation of the Plaintiff's personal, emotional or spiritual well-being,” the baseball player alleged.
In a screenshot of a text-message conversation between Yawn and Ben, the latter said, “She used the words ‘emotional, verbal and spiritual abuse.’ I was shocked. Can’t be 2000 miles away from her and the kids while she’s thinking that about me.” Yawn, as per Ben, responded with “feigned words of sympathy and friendship,” and said, “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.”
Ben Zobrist, who was scheduled to return to playing professional baseball in the summer of 2019, was unable to do so due to the fact that Robin Yawn, the pastor’s wife, had informed him that Julianna and Yawn communicated using “burner phones”. Ben allegedly decided to turn his focus entirely on repairing his marital relationship.
The lawsuit alleged that as consequence, Ben Zobrist forfeited four months of his 2019 season of his professional baseball contract resulting in approximately eight million dollars of lost income.