By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Greeted like a Beatle as he emerged from the familiar dugout perch, David Ross was nothing more than himself back at Wrigley Field on Wednesday for the first time since retiring as a World Series champion.
He fled into the home clubhouse and greeted every former teammate and staff member that made his two years as a Cub memorable. Ross then worked his way out to the field, welcomed by great fanfare, and met with every familiar face.
Ross shook hands, offered hugs and embraced the city in which he will forever be loved.
“I really feel like I’m the luckiest man ever,” said Ross, so humbled by his reception.
Ever since his home run in Game 7 of the World Series and being carried off Progressive Field a champion last November, Ross has seen his legend grow. He was on “Saturday Night Live” and the “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” has a book of his story out, with that soon to become a movie.
Now, Ross is on “Dancing With The Stars” among celebrities. During Monday’s rain delay before the Cubs-Dodgers game, his performance was shown live at Wrigley Field. Fans roared as he went through a routine honoring his 2016, with the familiar “Forever Young” as his rendition song. On Wednesday, before Ross could receive his World Series ring, throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” he had to work a six-hour rehearsal for Monday’s dance.
Ross became the lovable “Grandpa Rossy” during his time with the Cubs — embraced for his down-to-earth personality. He was the ultimate teammate inside the clubhouse and a relatable player for fans.
Ross played 15 seasons primarily as a backup catcher and is the first to point out his career batting average of .229. That’s why he’s so humbled.
“The love I get is for who I am, not for my stats,” Ross said. “That’s the part that gets me emotional. People like you for you and who you are as a person, not just as a player. That’s the cool part for me.”
On Monday night, Ross was waiting for a flight in Los Angeles while watching the Cubs play the local favorite Dodgers. When his former teammate and longtime friend Jon Lester picked up a big strikeout, he jumped in the terminal, yelling at nobody in particular, F— yeah! Needless to say, he got a few stares.
Chicago and the Cubs are forever in his fabric. Ross is currently a part of the front office, a role in which he can discover a potentially permanent place in the game. Managing is something to consider, but Ross first wants to know what goes into the job and whether he feels fit.
The 40-year-old father of three is looking forward to more time with his young family, which made his decision to retire feel so certain in 2016. But he misses being with those Cubs teammates, who made the end of his career so special.
“I miss the guys a ton,” Ross said. “When you’re in that environment with those guys and everybody’s on the same page, grinding, trying to do the best they can for one goal, that’s a special thing I don’t think I’ll get back.
“I feel like this city has embraced me for some reason. These guys, I love them to death for all they’ve done for me and my life. They’ve changed my life forever. I can’t imagine not being a Cub for life.”
Ross is adjusting to the rock star treatment he receives, whether that’s in Chicago or Los Angeles. After a long career as a backup catcher, he now has a growing celebrity status.
All he can do is laugh. Ross never could’ve imagined just being a beloved teammate would take him this far.
“I’m enjoying the heck out of it,” he said. “You think good things happen to good people. You try to do good things and hope it pays out. But I wasn’t trying for any of this. I was just being myself, and that’s what I think the people appreciate. I just try to keep being me.
“I feel like the luckiest man on the planet.”