With the Commissioner’s Trophy in the foreground, Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester hugs former Cubs catcher David Ross after Ross threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on April 12, 2017. The Cubs received their World Series rings before the game. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
David Ross smiled recalling the advice he recently received from a former Cub.
"Ryan Dempster said if your wife is ever giving you a hard time or you’re having a bad day just hop on a flight and head to Chicago and you’ll feel better,” Ross said Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. "I feel this city has embraced me for some reason and, these guys, I love them to death. They have changed my life forever. So I can’t imagine not being a Cub for life.”
Based on the way the Wrigley Field crowd welcomed Ross back to town during the pregame ring ceremony, Cubs fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Nobody heard a louder ovation than "Grandpa Rossy,” the popular backup catcher on the 2016 World Series champions whose celebrity during retirement only has increased. Ross, who has appeared on "Saturday Night Live,” currently participates in ABC’s "Dancing With the Stars,” and has a scheduled guest date on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show. Plans already are underway to turn the recently released book about his life into a movie.
One Chicago reporter even called him a legend when asking a question, which Ross humbly corrected.
"First of all, legend isn’t what I think I am — I really feel like I’m the luckiest man ever,” Ross said. "I mean, I can’t even read, how do I have a book coming out. … Like, who am I? I don’t even know anymore. I feel so appreciative.
"The emotional part for me is that the love I get is for who I am, not for my stats. That’s what gets me emotional, that people like me for (who I am) as a person, not just as a player. I try to make sure I give the credit where credit is due. I’m not a superstar player and it’s about the dudes on the field still playing.”
Some of the dudes still playing reunited with Ross on Tuesday night before he visited the clubhouse before Wednesday’s game. But work came before play: Ross spent six hours rehearsing his dance moves before hurrying over to Wrigley to join his buddies.
"I was like 12 years old driving to the park today,” Ross said. "I felt like I sprinted down the stairs to get to the locker room. … I miss the guys a ton. When you’re in that environment with those guys, and everybody’s on the same page grinding, that’s a special thing I’ll never get back.”
Photos from the game and World Series ring ceremony on April 12, 2017, at Wrigley Field.
Looking fit and thinner than he was in his final season, Ross reflected with amazement at this unlikely rise not even he can believe.
"I’m enjoying the heck out of it,” Ross said. "You think good things happen to good people and you try to do good things and hope it pays out. I wasn’t trying for any of this. I was just trying to be myself. I just try to spread the love and be positive.”
The only negative Ross referenced was the embarrassment he felt one day dropping his young kids at school in Georgia and their fellow classmates complimented his dancing the night before — when he performed a "Magic Mike" routine. Other than that, it would be harder to find a happier retiree around baseball.
"I’m a .220 backup catcher — what am I doing on the show (DWTS)?” Ross asked. "Mr. T is on there. How cool is that? He’s a Chicago guy. He actually has said he’s my teammate now because we’re representing Chicago. I feel really, really blessed.”
Before leaving, Ross asked one request of every reporter whose hand he just shook.
"Put my number at the end of your stories so people vote for me next week,” Ross said. "I need the help.”
Not by the sounds of the home crowd.