Chicago Cubs: David Ross’ Storybook Career Drawing to a Close

David Ross, the 39-year-old catcher for the Chicago Cubs, says he is 99.9 percent sure that he will retire at the end of this season. As the “go-to guy” in the clubhouse, he’s one of those players who will be missed more for what he is as a person than for what he can do with a bat.

David Ross is playing what is likely to be his final season with his seventh big league team. Used mostly now as Jon Lester‘s personal catcher, Ross has compiled a modest .229 batting average over his fifteen seasons. He’s also averaged a mere seven home runs and a bit more than 20 RBI per season over the same span. How is it possible that he is still wearing a major league uniform?

And that is really where the story of David Ross begins and ends. Because there’s a whole other dimension to Ross, and it supersedes the numbers and what he has been able to accomplish on the playing field as a hitter.

Lester: “He Knows How to Push My Buttons”

Take, for instance, Jon Lester on David Ross:

“He really only started catching me at the end of 2013, then in 2014 I started throwing just to him, and I’m not sure if there was anything specifically, but over time he has understood how to push my buttons, making sure I’m locked in and everything. At the same time I know how to do the same to him. We check our feelings at the door when we go out and play, and when we’re done we can sit back and kind of laugh at some of the things we’ve said to each other over the last few years.”

Kyle Hendricks, tonight’s starter against Clayton Kershaw, also spoke to MLB.com about Ross, saying, “He’s the most vocal leader we have. He’s been around. He’s won where he’s been. Just watching a guy like that, picking his brain, talking to him day-in and day-out, I’ve learned a ton from him, and I know what he’s done for the team has been monumental.”

For David Ross, It’s All About Family

According to the Chicago Tribune, David Ross came very close to losing both his wife and third daughter a little more than a year ago when complications developed in the delivery room. Ross, who was on leave from the Cubs, reportedly entered the room in tears as he stood by helplessly watching the doctors save the life of his high school sweetheart Hyla and their daughter.

All is well now, but Ross remembers how the Cubs treated him during that time. Ross recalls:

“There’s a lot more sympathy to those things. Joe [Maddon] kept saying to me, ‘We need David Ross back, not a piece of David Ross back … Make sure things are fine at home before you come back to us.’ When your manager tells you that, and Theo Epstein calls you and checks on you, and the organization sends $500 worth of food to your house so your family doesn’t have to cook, you just feel like you owe them so much. It goes a long way.”

So for David Ross, maybe the only thing he would like to have is another world championship added to his storybook career. (He was with Boston in 2013.) His character has earned him the respect of not one, but two families both on and off the field.

Speculating, if he ever wants to resume a career in baseball, he would seem to be prime managerial material in the same way that former catchers Bruce Bochy and Joe Girardi have successfully taken on that role.

But for a career .229 career hitter, David Ross has managed to last fifteen seasons in the big leagues and there’s a reason why. And it has nothing to do with his batting average.