Ross looking forward to focusing on fatherhood

Cubs' backup catcher sees new beginning in life beyond baseball

June 14th, 2016
David Ross spends time with his son, Cole, and his father, David Ross Sr., in Mesa, Ariz., during Spring Training.

CHICAGO -- In May, 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' father, also named David, is not surprised by his son's decision.

:: Father's Day 2016 ::

"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 [Hyla], and go pick them up. I've got a good little routine in the offseason."

In season, it's been tough. 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 them 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."

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, 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."

"What's helped him is all the youth on this ball team," the senior Ross said. "It's a new generation. I mean, gosh, he's so much older than most of them."

So, is David Ross' dad the real Grandpa Rossy?

"I'm Grandpa -- that's it," he said, smiling.

What's next for David Ross?

"That's the million-dollar question," the catcher said. "It's hard to think about those things when you're in the middle of playing, and you have these goals to win a World Series. I love this game and I want to stay involved and try to be around it as much as I can, but give the bulk of my time with my family."

Next summer, they can spend a month at the beach. They can go to amusement parks and SeaWorld. There are Little League games to be played. Ross wants to coach his son, Cole.

"There's so many more reasons why this is my last year other than just being a baseball player," Ross said. "I would love to play this game until I'm 90 -- I think we all would. I love competing. I'll never miss getting my body ready and some of the things you go through, but I'll miss competing and being around the guys and the goal as a group for success. I love that feeling."

More important, though, is that Ross loves being Dad.

"I've been able to live my dream, honestly," Ross said. "And now it's time to live my kids' dreams and try to be involved in their lives, and do as much as I can for them and be a dad."

Happy Father's Day.