CHICAGO (CBS) – Grandpa Rossy is back.
The Cubs announced Friday they’re bringing back newly retired catcher David Ross — as a special assistant to baseball operations. In his new role, Ross will contribute to “all elements within the club’s baseball operations department,” including doing scouting, player development work and helping within the front office. Ross will also evaluate amateur players leading up to the draft, the team said.
The popular and jovial Ross, 39, had an impressive year offensively and defensively in 2016 as the Cubs mounted a successful campaign for the World Series championship under manager Joe Maddon and broke a 108-year title drought. Maddon and others praised Ross – affectionately known as “Grandpa Rossy” – for the way he mentored players in an increasingly high-pressure environment. Ross was a father figure to many of the younger Cubs, notably good friend and All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Ross, who spent his final two years playing for the Cubs, was on the Boston Red Sox when that club won a World Series championship in 2013.
Ross was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 1998 draft after playing at both the University of Florida and Auburn University. He was a career .229 hitter with 106 home runs in a 15-year career.
Ross went out on top. Not only did the Cubs win the World Series in Game 7, the final official at-bat of his career was a home run that game Chicago a 6-3 lead in the decisive game. Ross would have one more plate appearance, walking in the ninth inning before being pulled as the Cubs went on to win 8-7 in 10 innings.
Ross had a .784 OPS and 10 homers and 32 RBIs in 205 plate appearances in 2016 and was regarded as one of the game’s best defensive catchers. While he was still playing at a high enough level that the Cubs were open to him continuing his playing career, Ross expressed a desire time and again to spend more time with his family.
“I kind of feel like I’ve lived my dream,” Ross said in October after the Cubs defeated the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. “I’ve gotten to live this lifestyle for way longer than I ever thought or deserved to live it, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun things and been very successful for the skill set I have and what I bring to the table. I feel like I’ve had a very long major league career and have done things that I never thought I would be able to do. So at some point you got to be unselfish, right?
“If being a dad is important to you and being a father and a husband and those things are important to you, and you want to influence your kids and teach them right from wrong, it’s hard to be gone for six, seven months and commit your life to baseball, because that’s what this is.”