- Ross is one of a very few players to play in the College World Series with two different teams, first with the Auburn Tigers in 1997, and then the Florida Gators in 1998.
- From the time he can remember to when he was 11 years old, David Ross equated success on the diamond with one thing: watermelons.
As a batboy for his father, also named David, and his ultra-competitive softball teams, Ross would travel every summer to the Watermelon Tournament in Monticello, Florida, about a half hour northeast of Ross's hometown of Tallahassee.
For every home run a team hit, they were given a watermelon.
"My Dad's team was really good," recalled Ross, laughing at the memory. "So, we were eating watermelon all day and we'd go home with four or five watermelons."
For the Ross family, family outings often revolved around the softball diamond. Two nights a week and weekends were devoted to games and tournaments. Every Fourth of July was spent at a different tournament, and Ross recalled often sleeping in the car under a shady tree during an all-day tournament.
"Basically, that was my introduction to baseball," Ross said. "You grow up doing that stuff and it becomes second nature to pick up a bat, a glove and a ball, and that's what you want to do for fun.
I ended up just enjoying baseball 'cause that's all I was around." (William S. Hupp-MLB.com-6/16/06)
- David says he didn't have any heroes when he was a kid. "I grew up one of those guys that kind of liked to be out in the yard instead of watching TV. You know, I was always out playing. I watched some guys with the Braves, like Dale Murphy. I wanted to be out getting dirty or something," Ross said with a smile.
The Dodgers drafted him out of high school in the 19th round, but Ross turned them down. Instead, he went to Auburn. Later he transferred to Florida, even though his old high school, Florida High, is less than a mile from the Seminoles' baseball field.
"I just kind of wanted to get out of town, get out on my own, and grow up a little bit," David said of his original decision to go to Auburn.
Ross says his first job was working with his Dad's meat company.
"I delivered meat at 4:00 a.m. to restaurants—getting up early and going to his freezing cold freezers and getting meat out, loading 'em on the truck, riding with one of his drivers, and helping him to deliver it to restaurants when it's not even light out yet. By night, I'd be out at 8:30—no social life. I did that for a couple of summers when I wasn't playing baseball," David said.
David made his Major League debut July 6, 2002. Though hitless in three at-bats, he did a solid job of handling starting pitcher Hideo Nomo, as well as four relievers. He also threw out Edgar Renteria attempting to steal second base to end the seventh inning, sprinting off the field and pounding high-fives into the hands of his teammates in the dugout.
"I got excited, I had a little adrenaline rush," said Ross. Then, he was one of the rarities: he was glad he was sent back down to the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. "I hadn't been playing much," said Ross. "It's exciting to be playing. I was happier to get back down because I'd been sitting on the bench."
- In March 2004, Ross accepted the job as Dodgers' union player representative, being handed the job by Paul LoDuca.
David is a leader both on and off the field. Not only is he a guy the pitchers love throwing to because of dedication to pitch calling and defense, but he's also the type of player who is not afraid to take a teammate aside and tell them to pick up their effort.
Ross vocalizes his support for his teammates from the dugout. And on the field, you can hear him chatting up his pitcher.
Ross is one of the most well-liked players in the clubhouse.
The pitcher-catcher relationship, the way Ross looks at it, is vital to winning baseball games.
"Sometimes I'll just go out and we'll have dinner and we'll talk about what they feel, and I'll try to listen to them and how they feel and what they're working on, and in my mind, I'll try to work with them on that," said Ross. "I mean, everybody's different. You have to adjust to certain guys. Some guys are easy to talk to; some guys want to be left alone. At some point, you have to be a teammate and get on the same page and talk to each other. That's all."
After his playing career, David would like to continue in the game.
"I would like to manage in the college level," said Ross. "You can influence those players in life in a lot more ways. I think it's a lot more innocent game."
How did Ross become a catcher?
"In Little League, I was the fat kid, to be honest with you," Ross said. "I was the kid that was short and fat, and that's where they used to put the catcher. I actually enjoyed it. I started going back there and I really liked it. The rest is history, I guess. I kept playing and learning and still playing and learning."
David's wife's name is Hyla. She is supportive and helps him believe to reach his goals as a player.
David and Hyla had a daughter, Landri, born in 2007. Their second child, a son, Cole, was born May 1, 2009.
While with the Braves, their in-season home was Sandy Springs, a north-Atlanta suburb. Their offseason home is in Tallahassee, Florida.
Hyla is David's rock, even though she once broke his heart, he likes to tease. The couple has known each other since high school when her brother played baseball with Ross. They continued to date when Ross went off to Auburn, and she was a senior in high school. She joined David at Auburn the next year. That is when the met and became good friends with Tim Hudson and his girlfriend, Kim, now his wife.
When David transferred to the University of Florida after his sophomore year, Hyla transferred to Florida State to study nursing. At the end of his junior year, Ross signed with the Dodgers, after they chose him in the 7th round. That is when the heartbreak occurred. Hyla broke up with Ross during his first year in the minors.
"Her (nursing) career and identity was, and is, important to her," David said. "I think she wanted to figure out who she was as a person, without me. I definitely believe that breaking up back then was hugely important to the relationship we have now."
Hyla finished school and began working at Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida—the same city where David was playing for the Double-A Suns, then the Dodgers affiliate. Hyle worked in the pediatric intensive care unit, a job she loved. But she loved David, too.
Ross credits Hyla with helping him keep perspective during the sometimes difficult minor league days: "I'd come home from a tough game—I might have gone 0-for-4—and she'd come home and tell me she lost two babies, or a child was in a coma. It made me think, 'OK, my life is pretty good.' "
In the fall of 2001, they visited Discovery Cove, an Orlando theme park that allows guests to swim with dolphins and other sea animals. As Hyla stood in the water, a dolphin carrying a buoy swam toward her. Written on the buoy was a marriage proposal: "Hyla, I love you. Will you marry me?" The ring was brought over.
"I was so clueless. I wore the ring on the wrong hand all day," said Hyla. They were married in 2005. (Patty Rasmussen-ChopTalk-October 2010)
- Ross likes country music like Alabama, Toby Keith, and Sara Evans.
- David says he loves desserts, and his favorite is Morton's Steakhouse Godiva chocolate cake.
- For movies, he likes "Gladiator," and comedies such as "Dumb and Dumber" and "Tommy Boy."
- Ross says the funniest player he has been around is Mark Sweeney, by far. "He's witty, he's loud, he's dry sometimes. He gives everybody a hard time," David said. "It doesn't matter who it is—superstar or rookie. He doesn't pick and choose. He's gonna rag anybody. He's just a great guy."
In 2010, the Rosses built a 4,000-square foot home in Tallahassee, near their families.
There are two baseballs in their own glass cases on the top shelf of David's locker. One came after he threw a perfect eighth inning on May 9, 2015, against the Brewers. The other was waiting on his chair when he arrived in the Cubs' clubhouse on July 26.
For the second time in 2015, Ross threw a perfect inning of relief. But this time, Ross added a home run in the same frame. Ross became the first position player in the club's history to make multiple pitching appearances since Doug Dascenzo did so in 1991.
"I don't really want to be out there, first of all," Ross said. "It doesn't mean a whole lot to me other than it was a lot of fun. It helped our bullpen save an inning down there and put a smile on a couple guys' faces, as well as mine."
The 38-year old Ross pitched for the first time in his career at Milwaukee as the Cubs trailed, 12-4, in the eighth inning. This time, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he offered Ross the chance to make his "home debut."
Ross threw eight pitches, each one a fastball, topping out at 72 mph.
Ross forced a flyout to left field and then got the next two batters to ground out. "My goal was to throw it right down the middle and then see how fast," Ross said. "I know how hard [hitting] is, judging from my batting average, so I just try to throw it and see if they hit it at somebody."
Ross followed his appearance on the mound by crushing a hanging slider on a 2-2 count to left field for his first home run of the season. "It was good to lighten the mood there at the end because nobody was feeling good about today," Maddon said.
After the game, Ross's phone lit up with messages as he talked to the media. Fans chanted "M-V-P" afterward for the 13-year old veteran. (Garno - mlb.com - 7/26/15)
April 2016: After 544 starts as a catcher over 15 seasons, David finally caught his first no-hitter. And it came, fittingly, in his final season. Ross, 39, was behind the plate for Jake Arrieta's second career no-no in the Cubs' 16-0 romp over the Reds.
"That's just," manager Joe Maddon said. "This guy is always giving to the pitchers and everybody else on every team he's played on. I'm really happy for him. He had a great day at the plate on top of that."
Ross not only called the right pitches, he went 2-for-4, hitting an infield single and his first home run of the season, and he picked off Eugenio Suarez in the fourth. Anthony Rizzo said of Ross, "It's a good day for him, good start for him. Let's just keep checking off things for him that he's never done before and we'll be all right."
Rizzo and Kris Bryant have been documenting Ross's final season on Instagram, and will need to update the account with a photo of the catcher and Arrieta from the no-hitter. Ross posed on the podium after Arrieta met with the media.
After catching so many games, how did it feel to finally have a no-hitter on his resume? "It feels amazing, amazing," he said. "One of my dreams, and that stud made it come true. I'm on cloud nine."
Big leaguers' dreams do come true. "As a catcher and a guy who prides himself on calling a game and all that stuff, it's one of those things I really, really wanted to do, or be a part of," he said. "I feel like I didn't do a whole lot. That animal was in control the whole time and knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he locked it in when he needed to."
The Cubs' players were as happy for Ross as they were for Arrieta. (Muskat - MLB.com - 4/21/16)
NFL quarterbacks often present their offensive linemen with gifts at the end of a season for protecting them. Pitchers who throw no-hitters apparently give goodies, too. Jake Arrieta planned on presenting David a watch as a souvenir of the April 21, 2016 no-hitter against the Reds, which was the pitcher's second and the catcher's first. Arrieta posted on Twitter: "These no-no's are getting expensive for me @D_Ross3." With a couple watch emojis.
Arrieta had given Miguel Montero a nice time piece after the no-hitter they combined on Aug. 30, 2015, at Dodger Stadium as well. "They're both big watch guys," Arrieta said of his catchers. "It's kind of a tradition to buy the catcher something nice." (Muskat - MLB.com - 4/24/16)
Ross's final season, 2016, was notable. He was a great clubhouse and on-field presence. The Cubs acquired Ross to be Jon Lester's personal catcher before the 2015 season, but he was an even bigger asset off the field. His character makes him an invaluable asset.
"I don't try to be some special (person) in the way I go about doing that," David said. "I just try to be myself. It's really upon the guys in the locker room. They're just really good guys in here and good guys to be around. It's fun for me."
Teammates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo even started a must-follow for Cubs fans Instagram account: @grandparossy_3
May 27, 2016: When David Ross warmed up in the outfield, fans were constantly cheering for "Grandpa" to reach 100 career home runs.
"Ever since I hit 99, all I hear is 'Hit a homer, grandpa,'" Ross said. "Nobody knows my first name any more."
Ross reached the century mark in homers, launching a three-run blast in the fourth inning to help the Cubs beat the Phillies, 6-2. It was career home run No. 100, and pitcher Jon Lester has had a bottle of champagne waiting for his batterymate to celebrate. (C Muskat - MLB.co - May 27, 2016)
In May 2016, David Ross took advantage of an off-day to fly home to Tallahassee, Fla., and surprise his three kids. His 6-year-old son, Cole, had a baseball game that day.
Cole says he wants to be a catcher, but he's been using what he calls a "comfy stance" and setting up behind the plate on one knee. With his dad present, Cole squatted just like David has done for 14-plus seasons in the big leagues.
"My son said to me after the game, 'Dad, I was just trying to impress you,'" said Ross, who started to choke up as he recalled the conversation. "I said, 'You being you impresses me.'"
The brief getaway was a mini-vacation for Ross, and it reinforced why the 39-year-old catcher plans on retiring after this season with the Cubs. Watching Cole play baseball, taking 7-year-old daughter Landri for ice cream and seeing baby Harper grow up are the top priorities for Ross.
"You see your kids growing up and you don't see them for a couple weeks other than FaceTime, and you talk to them on the phone and their lingo is different," Ross said. "You feel that time is passing you by. Being a dad is important to me. We have priorities in life, and the older I get, it's time for my family to be top priority. I love this game, but I love my family way more."
Ross's father, also named David, is not surprised by his son's decision.
"We kind of knew it was coming," the senior Ross said. "The kids are a big part of it. It's hard for him to leave home. He's very family oriented, and it makes it tough. I'm sure it's going to be hard. I don't know if it'll be hard when he walks away, but it'll hard the next year when baseball starts back, and not have the routine he's done basically all his life. It's time for him to do something else."
Which could be as simple as carpooling. "One of my favorite things to do is take them to school—I love dropoff and pickup," the catcher said. "In the offseason, I drop them off, go work out, have lunch with my wife, and go pick them up." (Muskat - MLB.com - 6/16/16)
In the 2016 season, teammate Jason Heyward is treating Ross to a hotel suite on the road to make it easier for the catcher to have his family join him. And the three generations had a boys trip when the Cubs went to Atlanta and Washington this month.
"This lifestyle is a fairy tale to begin with, let's be honest," Ross said. "We get treated like kings. To have your son be part of that and show him how people treat each other and how they look out for one another, to learn to say 'hello' when you see the guys and shake their hand and look them in the eye, that's been good for me to let my son partake in that. When you see more men doing the right thing, I think it's a better influence for your kids."
Ross knows he can't make up for missed time, but he's trying. "I think when you see your kids growing up and you're outside their world, it hurts sometimes," Ross said. "It's like, 'Wow, man, I need to be involved here.' I don't want them to grow up without my influence. I feel that's very important."
And don't think Ross ignores his daughters, Landri and Harper, who turns 1 on Aug. 26. "If you get a chance to have kids, and you don't have a girl, you're missing out, in my opinion," Ross said. "Landri is the spark plug in the family. She has a little more attitude than Cole. It's good. She's a fiery one, she's competitive, she wants to win at everything.
"With the girls, you just love them," he said. "You love them and hug them. I let my wife do the disciplining. I just try to love them and hug them, and be a good influence for what a guy will be one day in her life." (Muskat - MLB.com - 6/16/16)
As a kid, Ross grew up on the diamond, following his father, who played in a men's softball league. "All summer, we'd go to tournaments," Ross said. "[My father] is not really an ultra competitive guy. It's weird—my mom's probably more competitive. She played basketball and her brothers were college football players."
The senior Ross, who lives about four miles from his big league son, does like to brag about him. He's had plenty to talk about. In April 2016, David caught Jake Arrieta's no-hitter, and he collected his 100th career home run in May. He's handled the good-natured teasing from the young Cubs, who call him "Grandpa Rossy."
Put simply, Ross is a people person. He thanks his parents for imbuing values such as respect and for enocouraging him to be forthright. He is a truly genuine person.
"David has always been a great pro, helping win wherever he's gone," White Sox manager Robin Ventura, Ross' teammate with the Dodger in 2003-2004. "You could see even then he had outstanding communication skills and was a great listener."
But the humble Ross shrugs off the compliment.
"I was lucky to come up in the Dodgers organization and play with teammates like Robin, Shawn Green and Dave Roberts," David said. "I learned to listen and pay atention to detail. But, I'm a people watcher in general. On off days, I might go to a mall, grab lunch and watch people interact." (Bruce Levine - Vine Line - June, 2016)
2016: STORYBOOK YEAR
So, who's the 2016 Cubs' Most Valuable Player, Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant? Bryant cast his vote for veteran catcher David Ross.
"He's probably more valuable at times than any one of us here because of what he says in the clubhouse, how he gets us going," Bryant said. "There are times when I'm sitting here super tired and he says something, and I'm like, 'Well, I have to get going now.' That's value to me."
During the Cubs' September weekend series in Houston, Ross and Bryant were spotted in the dugout, and the former was doing most of the talking.
"I was probably just venting to him some frustrations [about an at-bat], and he was there pumping me up and telling me I'm the greatest player who ever lived," Bryant said. "That's what he tells me. That makes me feel good. I know I'm not the greatest player who ever played the game, but for him to say that to me, that's all you need when you don't feel right or something. You need a guy like David Ross sitting next to you on the bench doing most of the talking. That was a moment for me and him."
2016 is Ross' final season, and Bryant is enjoying their moments together. "He needs to come back as a coach," Bryant said. "I don't know how good he is at throwing batting practice, but we need him here." (Muskat - MLB.com - 9/13/16).
Sept 23, 2016: Ross is the ringleader on the Cubs, and he prides himself on knowing everything that's going on, but the veteran catcher was totally surprised when teammates honored him pregame as part of a year-long retirement ceremony.
It was business as usual until 1:00 p.m. CT, when a video tribute began to play, featuring some of Ross' career highlights plus tributes from teammates Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, John Lackey and strength coach Tim Buss. Ross, 39, is retiring after this season, and he received a No. 3 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, plus home plate from Jake Arrieta's no-hitter that he caught in April. The jersey Ross wore when he hit his 100th career home run also was framed.
"When you're a guy who's a backup catcher and kind of a journeyman and has been on a bunch of different teams and trying to find your way through the Major Leagues and do the best you can, [to] get a moment like that is pretty cool," Ross said.
Ross' wife, their three children, his parents and a close friend were all at Wrigley Field and joined the catcher on the field, as did Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
"The things they said about me is kind of overwhelming, and the way they treat me, and how much respect they have for me," Ross said. "I'm a guy who tries to work hard and ends up with some years in the big leagues and has done some fun things, and with this group, trying to win a ring this year, the emotion comes from looking back when you reflect on your career. I don't try to do that, because it gets really emotional.
"Seeing the picture of [Heyward] up there with me with hair and some pictures from Boston with Lester and 'Lack,' your career starts flashing before your eyes and how long you've been able to be in the league and play and going out with this kind of group and city and environment," Ross said. "It doesn't get any better." (C Muskat - MLB.com - Sept 23, 2016)
David was ticked when Cubs manager Joe Maddon came to the mound with two outs in the seventh inning. Jon Lester was pitching well and had not given up a run against the Cardinals.
"Honestly, I'm like, 'Why is he taking Jon out?'" Ross said. "Maddon says, 'I've never done this before, but I'm taking you out of the game.' And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I'm trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again."
September 25, 2016 was the Cubs' final home regular-season game, and Lester wanted to make sure that his batterymate, who is retiring once they're done in the postseason, got a proper send-off. You couldn't script it any better. Ross hit a solo homer, his 10th, to help the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 3-1, and notch their 99th win. And he was greeted by standing ovations before every at-bat.
"All he could say was, 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys,'" Lester said of Ross' reaction when he realized what Maddon was doing. "I've been with him a long time and we've been through a lot together. I tried to hold it together until I turned around and saw [Anthony] Rizzo [crying]."
Backup catchers usually don't get this kind of attention. But Ross, 39, is different. "I really wanted to do something that was special to him and special to me and make sure he really understood that we appreciate him and what he does and brings on a day to day basis," Lester said.
It's been a yearlong celebration for Ross, beginning in Spring Training 2016 when Rizzo and Kris Bryant started an Instagram account honoring "Grandpa Rossy." Jason Heyward paid for a suite on the road for Ross for every road trip and the players bought the veteran a scooter to get around the practice facility in Mesa, Ariz.
This night, Ross was the toast of Wrigley Field. "I was overcome with emotion," Ross said. "I'm so appreciative to the fans in Chicago for the way they treated me and the way they embraced me and treated me and this team and the way they give me so much credit that I don't deserve."
The game meant something to the Cubs as well. Lester picked up his National League-leading 19th win, and he's now 10-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He went 10-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 15 home starts, and all were quality starts. And Ross was behind the plate for every one.
The game was scoreless until Ross connected on his home run with one out in the fifth. Let the record show that Maddon called it. "I honestly had just said to Davey [Martinez] and coach [John] Mallee after the second ovation, I said, 'Doesn't he have to hit a home run tonight?' And then the next pitch goes," Maddon said. "It had to happen.
"My thought was this was something that he'll absolutely carry with him the rest of his life. This is the video that you want. This is the one thing you want to put in the VCR at some point." (Muskat - MLB.com - 9/25/16)
In 2016, David was a 39-year-old catcher with over 200 plate appearances. There aren't many of those, with only 23 players pulling it off in Major League history.
Ross was also a career backup catcher and yet, thanks to his abilities behind the plate, in the clubhouse and away from the field, has been a fan favorite and consummate teammate wherever he's gone. There are no Baseball-Reference Play Index searches we can run for that, but pretty sure there are fewer.
With the player affectionally referred to as "Grandpa Rossy" by his much younger Cubs teammates hanging up his catcher's gear at the end of the season, the team surprised their catcher with a ceremony earlier this week in his honor. It was a moment that brought tears to the catcher's eyes.
In his final regular season home game the emotions were only heightened. Despite only playing for the Cubs for the last two seasons, when he came out for his first at-bat in the bottom of the second, the Chicago fans gave him thunderous applause. Yadier Molina knew what was up and stepped onto the field, letting the fans do all the yelling and cheering they could hope for.
While he struck out to end that at-bat, Ross made sure his last regular-season home game had a storybook ending. That's because he crushed a home run to give the Cubs the lead. It was also his 10th of the year, the first time he's reached double digits since 2007.
Knowing that the Chicago fans hadn't hollered for the salt-and-pepper bearded catcher enough, Joe Maddon came out in the top of the seventh inning to lift Ross from the game. His teammates gathered around the mound, patted him on the helmet, and the cheers broke out again. (Clair - MLB.com - 9/25/16) (Editor's note: The Cubs went on to win the World Series in 2016.)
David's play, according to Baseball-Reference.com, has players being most similar to Ross that include the likes of Ozzie Virgil, Kelly Stinnett and Jim Pagliaroni.
Yet, everyone from Lester to Epstein to Rizzo and Arrieta will tell you Ross was invaluable to the cubs in 2016—the driving force that keeps the team running.
"When you're able to have a guy like him, as far as his clubhouse presence and what he brings to, not only the younger guys but the old guys, I think it just adds value to what he does on the field," Lester said.
Ross, who lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, Hyla, and his three kids, Landri, age 9, Cole, age 7 and one-year-old Harper (as of 2016).
David wants to do some simple things other people take for granted -- drive the kids to school in the morning, spend a summer vacation on the beach with his family, maybe even take a ski trip, something he could never do as a major leaguer for fear of a knee injury.
May 16, 2017: It's exhausting trying to keep up with everything going on in David's life of retirement in 2017. Imagine what it must be like to be leading that life. More like "retiredment," eh?
In addition to making the finals of Dancing With The Stars and writing a book about his playing career, Ross also now has his own breakfast cereal, Grandpa Rossy Crunch. Given Ross's many successes in the past year, one may have assumed he would be exempt from being the punchline to jokes. Jon Lester is out to prove that no teammate -- past or present -- is above some friendly kidding:
"New easy to chew formula,"
Yes, David Ross, a retired baseball player, is old. Age hasn't slowed him down yet. (Chesterton - mlb.com)
- March 30, 2005: The Pirates paid a reported $75,000 to the Dodgers to acquire Ross.
- July 28, 2005: The Padres sent SS J.J. Furmaniak to the Pirates, acquiring Ross.
- March 21, 2006: The Reds sent P Bobby Basham to the Padres, acquiring Ross.
January 15, 2007: Ross signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Reds. The team also had an option for 2009. The pact called for $1.6 million for 2007 and $2,525,000 in 2008. The Reds have a $3.5 million option for 2009 with a $375,000 buyout.
August 18, 2008: The Reds released Ross.
August 21, 2008: David signed with the Red Sox.
October 30, 2008: Ross filed for free agency.
December 5, 2008: David signed a two-year contract with the Braves.
July 27, 2010: He signed a two-year extension with the Braves.
November 11, 2012: Ross signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract with the Red Sox.
December 19, 2014: David signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cubs.