David Ross was never a star baseball player. He never hit 30 home runs, 100 RBIs or batted 300. in a season. His best campaign in terms of WAR (wins above replacement) was 2009, when he hit .273/.380/.508 with 7 HR and 20 RBI; not exactly jumping off the page. Throughout his career, Ross always seemed replaceable on the surface. However, talk to his teammates and they’ll tell you he’s anything but.
At the Cubs’ World Series victory parade, Anthony Rizzo took the stage at Grant Park to say a few words about the season. He had to pause a bit before he started talking about Ross.
“He taught me a lot about life on the field and off the field, how to be a better person, Rizzo said, tearing up a bit. “I’m forever grateful for him.”
Rizzo also said that he told his agent Ross was the perfect piece to put it all together. There aren’t that many players who’s impact is so heavily uninfluenced by performance on the field. He was ‘Grandpa Rossy,’ a beloved veteran who’s normalcy was turned into a storyline for the team’s 2016 season. And now that he went out a champion, he’s reaping the benefits.
Aside from the usual late-night talk show appearances championships usually bring, Ross has fully embraced his Grandpa persona, appearing on the latest season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, becoming the first baseball player to ever switch from cleats to ballroom shoes. He’s also joined ESPN as an analyst, and reunited with the Cubs as a special assistant to baseball operations.
Speaking at a conference call for ESPN, Ross explained that he never thought his life would get this hectic .
“My life is as far from normal as I could ever imagine,” he said. “I am in the middle of something I never thought I’d be a part of, and enjoying every minute of it. It’s just so far outside of my box that, to be in this arena and to take, one, a guy that’s a back-up catcher and not really a superstar like some in the game and to represent MLB and try to put, with no pun intended, a good foot forward, and just have some fun with this dancing thing.”
He’s having fun alright. Who knows how far he’ll get on DWTS, but something tells me he doesn’t care when he’s enjoying himself as much as he is right here.
In a DWTS segment prior to their first dance, Ross explained that ultimately he wants his kids to know that it’s ok to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. That’s the kind of man Ross is; one who leads by example. That kind of unteachable skill will certainly help in his new job with the Cubs.
According to MLB.com, Ross will “contribute to all elements within the club’s baseball operations department, including Major League operations, player development, pro scouting and work within the front office.” He’ll also help evaluate talent, and being that he spent 15 years in the majors, he should know exactly what it takes to be a part of a big league club.
“I’m really just taking a backseat role with the Cubs and trying to learn some front office stuff, just to broaden my horizons in baseball and what goes on in the front office and how they see things, how they analyze players, how they analyze the things that are going on the field and kind of grow my knowledge in that area,” Ross said in the conference call. “So I’m hoping to learn from what I consider one of the best front offices in all of baseball in Theo [Epstein, president of baseball operations] and Jed [Hoyer, General Manager], and Jason McLeod (senior vice president of scouting/player development), and how these guys go about scouting players and fitting that player into their piece of the puzzle that they’re trying to build a team, and bringing that to the public.”
Ross may be interested in learning the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes of a major league baseball team, but more importantly, he’s a leader who will help develop amateur players and turn them into clubhouse leaders, something that he helped Rizzo with the past two seasons.
Stardom doesn’t necessarily have to mean eye-popping stats or exuberant personalities. Stardom can mean taking the rookie out to dinner then buying him a few new suits. Stardom can mean embracing a somewhat-derogatory nickname if it opens up marketing opportunities. And yes, stardom can also mean hitting a home run to dead center against one of the best relievers in baseball in Game 7 of the World Series. However, Ross’ star shines more often than not via the simple, ‘boring’ things. It only makes sense that his spotlight is bigger than ever before now that his playing days are over; it’s an affirmation that he did everything right.
*Pre-order Ross’ new memoir, Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, available May 9, here.
*Image via Wikimedia Commons