David Ross’ true value lies in his veteran leadership and his calming influence behind the plate. But after delivering the game-winning hit in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday, the 36-year-old’s inner child took over.
“The signature moment, I think that’s what everybody lives for, but I’m just in awe of being in the World Series, really,” Ross said during a postgame press conference. “That’s as signature as it gets. I’m on the podium talking to you guys with the whole World Series thing behind me, right? I mean, that’s what you see people [do] on TV. I’m stoked.”
Ross’ “signature moment” came with one out in the seventh inning. Xander Bogaerts singled into center field and Stephen Drew walked to put runners at first and second for Ross. Adam Wainwright tried to put Ross away with a 1-2 breaking ball, but the Boston backstop ripped an RBI double down the left field line to put the Red Sox in front 2-1. Ross and the Sox went on to secure a 3-1 victory to pull to within one win of a World Series title.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in,” Ross said. “[But] there’s no way to get too excited when you know you have this much [work to do]. We still have a lot of work to do. I won’t let myself get too excited because we have a really good team that we still have to beat one more game.”
While Ross’ focus, obviously, is on helping the Red Sox seal the deal, it was clear from both his mannerisms and the enthusiasm in his voice Monday — although he’s always a fun guy to talk to — that his big hit in Game 5 was extremely satisfying. Ross missed a big chunk of time during the regular season with a concussion, and the journey back to where he is now was anything but easy.
“The trip I’ve taken this year, I never thought I’d be here,” Ross said. “There were times when I was questioning, ‘Is my career over?’ But thanks to a lot of positive people, good doctors, I’m here. And I’ve got to thank the manager for having faith in me and putting me in that position. I mean, I’m playing the World Series and this whole skit is just — I’m up here talking to you guys, so this is pretty cool, right?”
Ross’ lively personality is one of many within the walls of the Red Sox’ clubhouse. Whether it’s to discuss the day’s starting pitcher or a particular at-bat, Ross is almost always willing to talk baseball. So when Ross was forced to spend time away from his teammates earlier this year, it truly tested his mental make-up. A 12-year veteran playing one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports was forced to battle an injury that presented a whole new set of problems.
“We try to do mind over matter sometimes, and the hardest part when you’re going through something like that is just, you don’t have a cast on or you didn’t have surgery. I looked fine, but wasn’t [feeling] right,” Ross said of his concussion. “It’s hard to look your teammates in the eye when you’re going through something like that and see if you’re bowing out or not with the questions they have, because I used to do the same thing: ‘Concussion, just push through it. You’re not tough enough,’ or something like that.”
Ross, despite having his heart located in Boston (or wherever the Red Sox were playing), made it through his rest period and eventually rejoined his teammates toward the end of July. He didn’t skip a beat in his handling of the pitching staff, and three months later, Ross has played a pivotal role in the Red Sox pulling to within one win of baseball’s ultimate prize.
“As we talked about offensively, he’s given us a little bit of a spark in there,” manager John Farrell said. “He can do some things. He’ll draw the third baseman in with an attempted bunt. He’s come up with some big hits in this series and against Detroit. But more importantly, the rapport that he and Jon [Lester] have continued to refine as we’ve gone through this postseason, you know, is the reason why we’ve won the games in which he started and they’ve worked great together.”
Ross signed with the Red Sox last offseason with the reputation of being one of the most well-respected catchers in the league, albeit as a backup. He has added to that reputation by winning over the trust of his teammates and demonstrating a true passion for the game.
An aging journeyman catcher who has played for six different organizations and who has had to scratch and claw for roster spots throughout his entire career isn’t supposed to be at the podium following Game 5 of the World Series. But then again, a team that went 69-93 last year isn’t supposed to be in the World Series, either.
It’s OK to let your hair — or beard — down, David. These situations don’t come around too often.