How David Ross went from thinking baseball was ‘boring’ to being Cubs manager
When the Red Sox signed David Ross as a backup catcher in 2008, it didn’t take long for Theo Epstein to recognize the new Cubs manager as someone he’d want to hire someday.
In August 2008, David Ross had a bad rap.
Yes, the beloved “Grandpa Rossy” wasn’t so charming back then — at least in the eyes of some. With the Reds that season, Ross reportedly was earning a reputation that he was a bad teammate who refused to accept his role.
Looking back, that might’ve been a case of Ross being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Regardless, Ross’ late-summer release led him to the Red Sox and, more importantly, their general manager, Theo Epstein.
It didn’t take long for Epstein to recognize Ross as someone he’d want to hire someday.
The Red Sox signed Ross to be an emergency third-string catcher, but he quickly earned the respect of teammates and management.
Ross contributed to advance-scouting meetings, Epstein recalled in the foreword of Ross’ memoir, “Teammate.”
“The third-string catcher was not usually present, let alone vocal [in those meetings]. Except David,” Epstein wrote. “He spoke up early and often, in a strong and authoritative voice, making insightful points about every opposing hitter.
“ ‘That was impressive,’ I remember telling assistant general manager Jed Hoyer. ‘We should keep an eye on him . . . might make a scout or coach when he’s done playing.’ ’’
Ross returned to the Red Sox four years later after serving as a backup catcher with the Braves. It was then that Ross happened to be the right guy in the right place at the right time.
Ross went on to win a World Series with the Red Sox before joining the Cubs to be left-hander Jon Lester’s personal catcher and a clubhouse leader in 2015.
And, well, you know what happened next.
But here’s what you might not know or remember about Ross’ long journey that took the new Cubs manager from the East Coast to the West Coast and back before he landed in Chicago.
For starters, Ross was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, but grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. And he spent his summers helping his father at a meat-packing plant.
Ross didn’t grow up a baseball fan. He thought it was boring to watch, and he preferred to switch the channel to basketball or a game show.
But Ross loved to play baseball.
He earned a scholarship to play at Auburn, where he played one season before transferring to Florida.
The Dodgers drafted Ross in the seventh round of the 1998 draft — 12 rounds higher than where they selected him in 1995. It was then that Ross decided to leave school and play professional ball.
Ross didn’t make his major-league debut with the Dodgers until June 29, 2002, when he was 25. It wasn’t a glamorous start considering he struck out as a pinch hitter. But Ross went on to play for seven teams in his 15-season career.
His career highlights include a World Series title in 2013 with the Red Sox. He then became the embodiment of the 2016 Cubs.
After blasting a homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Ross ended his career how every major-league player dreams — soaked in sweat, tears, beer and champagne.
Life after playing baseball remained just as hectic for Ross, who became a Cubs advisor and an ESPN analyst.
Ross also shook his groove thing on national television, finishing as the runner-up on a season of ‘‘Dancing With the Stars.’’
Oh, and did we mention his memoir became a New York Times bestseller?
Eleven years ago, Epstein saw managerial potential with Ross when he was a backup catcher. Now, the Cubs believe he’s the right guy to bring them back to the World Series.
“David is as gifted a leader as I’ve ever come across,” Epstein said. “And I expect him to become a great manager.”