The Yearlong Retirement Party

Share
Share

Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are the future of the Cubs. David Ross? He’s retiring at the end of the season. The Players’ Tribune caught up with the Cubs’ unlikely trio of buddies in the dugout at Wrigley Field, where they discussed being young, getting old, Cubs culture and sending “Grandpa Rossy” out on a high note.

Anthony Rizzo
Are you bringing back the rattail, KB?

Kris Bryant
Yeah, you told me to.

Rizzo
I like it. You should grow that thing out.

Bryant
Maybe I will …

Rizzo
You know, we’ve been slacking a little bit on the Grandpa Rossy Instagram account.

Bryant
Yeah we have. We need to figure out what’s next.

Rizzo
Maybe we should explain to the people what we’re talking about …

Bryant
Oh yeah … so … me and Rizzo were out at dinner one night before the season started. And thinking how it was Rossy’s last year and all, we were like, “We should make Rossy an Instagram account and dedicate it to his final season.” So we did it. You can follow us at @grandparossy_3. We promise we’ll pick it back up in the second half of the season.

Rizzo
Yeah. The idea was to honor Rossy, ’cause the dude’s a legend, but we also like to use the account to showcase just how much Rossy needs us.

 

Someone had a rough day of catching drills today.. But thats what friends are for! #yearlongretirementparty

A video posted by David Ross (@grandparossy_3) on

I also wanted to get some clips of the real Rossy. The one you guys don’t get to see — the grumpy old man who’s always screaming and yelling at us. We haven’t gotten any of that yet. But we will.

Bryant
Yeah, we need to get some of those.

Rizzo
Hey, grandpa … you wanna get in here and defend yourself?

David Ross
I can’t. It’s true. I’m a jerk. I like screaming and yelling at you. I like getting your blood pressure up. Haha. You guys probably hate me — or maybe it’s more like a love/hate thing. What do you think, Rizz?

Rizzo

Ross
It’s O.K. We’re in the trust tree. In the circle. We’re fine.

Rizzo
O.K. … So let me tell you guys what Rossy said to me when he first got to Chicago. I thought Rossy was great — I was excited to have him on the team. And he said to me, “You love me now, but just wait till next year. You’ll get sick of me.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but it makes perfect sense now. But here we are in year two, and he was right. Now I know why he’s been on like seven different teams and only signs two-year deals everywhere he goes. Haha.

Ross
Yeah, it all adds up. I wear out my welcome fast. I go from a great clubhouse guy to a clubhouse cancer in like a year, haha. So after two years, it’s time for me to move on.

Bryant
My first encounter with Rossy was in spring training last year. I hit like nine home runs in spring training, and Rossy comes up to me and says, “Hey, KB. How many home runs you got?”

I’m like, “Nine.”

And he says, “No you don’t. You got zero!

Ross
Haha, yeah. The year before, you hit what, 43 in the minor leagues, KB?

Bryant
Yeah. Forty-three.

Ross
So I said, “How many homers did you hit last year?”

He says, “Forty-three.”

And I’m barking at him like, “No you didn’t! Minor leagues don’t count. You had zero in the Show. None!”

Bryant
I was like, Yeeeeeah … maybe I shouldn’t talk to this guy anymore.

Ross
Hahahaha.

Rizzo
I actually first met Rossy a few years ago when he was still with the Red Sox. We were both in Bristol doing the ESPN car wash. We had lunch one day, and for like an hour and a half, he was talking baseball, and I was just sitting there … listening. The next time I talked to my agent — who was also Rossy’s agent — I said to him, “That’s exactly what we need in our clubhouse to become a better team: A guy like David Ross.” Thankfully, we ended up signing him before last season.

Cubs_160605_283

Ross
Yeah. You guys already had a great group when I got here. But I think what this team was missing was confidence. Like, when you’re a young group — which you guys are — it’s O.K. to be good and to say that you’re good. But that’s hard to do when you don’t know what being good looks like. So when Jon Lester and myself come in, coming off a World Series, it’s different. Jon and I have seen winning. We know what winning looks like. So we come into this locker room last year and look around like, This guy’s a winner. That guy’s a winner. Rizz is a winner. KB’s a winner. It gives you guys the confidence to come together and do all the things that winning teams do.

Bryant
Yeah. I just think it’s like … you always wanna do well individually. But any time you talk to Rossy, you see that he doesn’t care about the individual stuff. He wants a ring. So when you’re a young guy and you see this guy who — it’s his last year, and he just wants to win. That’s infectious.

Ross
Exactly. And it’s been fun to watch the two of you because you understand that. You’re already so poised and professional at such a young age. You guys go out there and put yourselves on the line every day for your teammates. No matter what, you’re out there. Even during that stretch before the All-Star break where you guys played 24 straight games, no days off. You came in every day like, I’m here, and I’m gonna give you everything I got. Now, when you get 25 guys doing that — or at least a starting nine — that’s a team that wins.

Rizzo
Yeah. I remember I said to you last year, Rossy, that I was gonna go out there every single day — just to prove to you that I can go out there every single day — and give it all I got.

It’s O.K. to flip that switch off and make fun of KB’s rattail and knock Rossy for being old.

Ross
Well, you did … and what you’re saying is so true. It’s those little efforts that make a mark on a game that a lot of people don’t see. Like, one thing we stress here — and Joe Maddon stresses — is to just go up there and have a good at bat. Every time. Whether you get out or you get a base hit, if you’re going up there and making the pitcher work, that pays off for the next guy. If a pitcher has to grind on KB, and Rizz is hitting behind him, maybe KB will wear the pitcher down a bit to the point where he lets up a little and make a mistake to Rizz. And the result might be a two-run homer.

Rizzo
Yeah, and when you get into those stretches like you mentioned — the 24 straight — that’s three-plus weeks of work. Yeah, we play a game, and we love it. But if you do anything for 24 days straight without a day off, you can go crazy. And it’s not always easy to bring that same energy and that same focus to every at bat and every game. But see … some of us have switches, where we can —

Ross
Hahahaha yeah, Rizzo’s got the infamous “switch.” He can turn it on and off.

Rizzo
Yeah … so … even on the field, when it’s all business, I can still have a good time. Where Rossy over here can’t, haha.

Ross
No, I can’t. I don’t have a good time when I play. I have a good time when it’s over and we win. You guys know that. I’m not enjoying myself out there … I’m all stressed out.

Bryant
No, you enjoy it.

Ross
Yeah, I do enjoy it. I’m just out there trying not to be the weak link.

Rizzo
That’s why you gotta be able to switch it on and off every now and then. To grind and mentally focus all day every day for a 162-game season … you just can’t do it. I mean, some guys do it, and I don’t know how. But in our clubhouse, it’s like — when it’s time to get your work in, you get your work in. You focus 100% and you do it with a purpose. But outside of that, it’s O.K. to flip that switch off and make fun of KB’s rattail and knock Rossy for being old.

160720_Main_Event_044

Ross
Haha, yes. And I think that’s important because I think we’re better players when we’re being ourselves — whatever that is. That’s something I’ve really noticed around here, and I think it’s so cool to see you young guys let your personalities come out. Even KB, who’s always been a quiet guy.

Bryant
I’m still quiet. I just like to sit back and listen. I learn a lot by listening. That’s just how I’ve always been.

Ross
Yeah, but you’ve gotten a lot better this year. You’re coming out of your shell a lot more. Like when we were in Miami and you came down to me and started talking to me about hitting. And I’m like, Why’s this dude coming to me — a career .220 hitter — to talk about hitting? Haha …

Bryant
It’s because you’re one of the guys who’s behind the plate who knows how to get me out. And that Marlins series was one where I wasn’t feeling comfortable — and of course, we’re facing Jose Fernandez throwing like 99, which doesn’t make it any easier to get comfortable. And I remember you said to me, “Just take some pitches till you get a strike.”

Ross
Yeah. One of those simple things you just forget when you’re in the heat of the moment.

Bryant
Right. But when you hear that from somebody else, it makes sense, and it just gives you more confidence.

Ross
And that’s another thing about grinding every day. It’s easy to go on autopilot and start overlooking the details — the little things. Me? I’m not playing every day. So it’s easier for me to think about those kinds of things from the bench. I can sit there and think, Why is KB swinging at every pitch? He’s super aggressive today. I wonder why. And if you come to talk to me, those are the things I’m able to impart on you. I’m just not gonna come to you and start coaching you. You gotta come to me.

Bryant
Yeah, and that’s what we have here. I can go talk to anybody — especially you two guys — and you’ll just listen. You won’t always try to “fix” me. And sometimes that’s all you need. Even if you didn’t say anything to really help me, I’ll go back up to the plate feeling 100 times better just because I talked about it. I said it out loud. I got it out in the open.

Ross
And Joe Maddon allows that, too. He’s big on communication and just the freedom to be yourself and talk to one another. It’s pretty cool. It’s a good vibe. It’s a good workplace. And that’s so important.

It’s like … I come to work and see guys struggling or guys making mistakes, and you know what? That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with going through a slump or making mistakes. It happens to everyone. But let’s talk about it. It’s O.K. to make fun of somebody for booting a ball or dropping a fly ball, because it’s getting it out in the open. We’re not mad … it’s funny.

I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my career. You’re gonna see me fall flat on my face behind the plate. I mean, I ran off the field in a freakin’ NLCS game thinking we got the third strike for the final out of the inning, but it was only two strikes. I flipped the ball into the stands and everything. You can’t look like more of an idiot than I did.

Bryant
Oh my God. That was the best. Please tell me we got video of that….

Rizzo
Oh, we got video.

Bryant
The best part — and it’s not in the video here — is that if you looked down to first base, you could see Rizzo laughing and holding up two fingers like, Yo, that’s only two, grandpa.

Ross
Yeah. See? Idiot. Haha.

Bryant
Tell them about the game against the Diamondbacks….

Ross
Oh my God, the Diamondbacks this year … so, Yasmany Tomás hits a walk-off.

Bryant
A walk-off base hit.

Ross
Yeah. A walk-off base hit. And the winning run rounds third, the throw comes home, and the guy scores easy. But I see Tomás rounding first base, and I’m thinking he’s going to second. He’s in the middle of the field jumping up and down celebrating, and I’m thinking he’s going for two, so I cock back and start running at him, ready to gun him out. And everybody’s like, Hey, you idiot….

We’re all gonna make mistakes and look stupid out here. So let’s make fun of each other and move on with it.

Bryant
The game’s over bro….

Ross
Hahaha, yeah! The game’s over, bro. Oh, God … see? We’re all gonna make mistakes and look stupid out here. So let’s make fun of each other and move on with it. Even if you just lost a game on a walk-off hit. Let’s laugh about it and have fun with it, because that’s what’s gonna help you come out the next day and forget about what happened the day before. Because you don’t remember that you lost. You remember Rossy trying to gun somebody down when the game was already over. Haha. You remember the idiot.

Rizzo
It also helps slow the game down when you’re able to do stuff like that. I used to yell at Addison Russell when he was next to me playing second. He’d get a pop-up, and I’d be in his ear like, “Don’t drop it!” Or, “Watch out for that skateboard!” He’s probably glad he’s over at short now … away from me. Haha.

Ross
Right. But you try to pick those moments and just have fun with them. We had a lot of that in Boston. When you come to the field every day and you’re expected to win and fans expect you to do your best, that’s “pressure.” We have that here in Chicago now. And you gotta have fun with it, otherwise it’ll get to be too much.

Bryant
That’s what it was like for me coming up last year. In spring training, everybody wanted to talk to me, and talk about me — the expectations and whatnot. And I just wanted to go out and play. Like, I didn’t care about any of that other stuff. So it was hard for me for the first month and a half, or whatever. It just took me a while to get used to it.

160715_Cubs_019

Ross
We had a bet going on when you were gonna hit your first homer.

Bryant
Yeah, it took me a while — like 21 games. There was just so much pressure.

Ross
It’s huge. It’s the weight of the world.

Bryant
And you feel it. Then you finally hit your first homer. Then you hit two more over the next three games, and that’s when you can finally go out there and just play. This year, I feel very comfortable. But coming up to a place like this — to Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs? It’s hard to put that kind of pressure into words.

Ross
And the way you handled it was pretty cool. Like, I just wanna play. I don’t wanna show anybody up. That shows a lot of leadership that you don’t see in a lot of guys your age. Like when we were in Cincinnati. You go 5 for 5 with three homers and two doubles, and the road crowd is calling for you to come out for a curtain call. And you didn’t take it.

Bryant
Yeah, I’m just not that type of guy. I’m not trying to show anybody up.

Ross
Right. Out of respect for the other team. You don’t take a curtain call on the road. And that’s one of those professional things that you learn through the years. You’ve got them already. You don’t see the humble superstar too much anymore, and to see that here is a breath of fresh air. Again, that’s what makes this place and this group of guys so special. You don’t need the attention. You just wanna go out and —

Rizzo
Hit homers.

Bryant
Yeah, those are fun.

Ross
Haha, yeah. Those are fun.

Bryant
So we’re already into the second half … what are you gonna do when it’s over, Rossy? Are you gonna have a retirement party?

Ross
Yes.

Bryant
Are we invited?

Ross
Yeah, I guess. We’ll see if you guys still like me by that time.

Cubs_160618_192

Bryant
What are you gonna do when you retire?

Ross
I’m gonna go to the beach with the family. I’m gonna go to the beach, and I’m gonna stay at the beach. For like a month. Maybe I’ll rent a house. And maybe in the winter I’ll learn to ski. I’ve never been skiing. You can’t do that when you’re playing baseball. Not with a catcher’s knees. Now, if I blow a knee out skiing, it won’t matter. I’ve got nothing else to do.

Then I think I’m gonna come to some games and sit right on the first base line by Rizz and heckle him. Tell him to get his crap together. You know, I’ll come back and wave to the people, maybe sing during the seventh-inning stretch.

Rizzo
That’s the Rossy we need to show the people, KB. The dude running in circles around the locker room yelling at everybody. That’s why we need to get that Instagram account back where it needs to be. The world needs to know the real Rossy.

Bryant
Yeah. We need to do it big in the second half. Like, we need to get a billboard out in the outfield for Grandpa Rossy or something.

Ross
Hahaha. No, you don’t! The David Ross retirement tour is not the David Ortiz retirement tour. But you guys are bringing some attention to it, which is cool for me. It makes me laugh. I didn’t realize that everything you guys touch around here turns to gold. I mean, this Instagram account has like over 120,000 followers, and now I can’t go to dinner without taking selfies. I mean, I don’t mind it. It’s just a totally different world for me. I won a World Series in Boston and didn’t get nearly as much attention as I get here in Chicago, just because of you guys and this Instagram account.

Rizzo
You’re a legend, though. That’s the thing.

Ross
Haha. I’m not a legend….

Rizzo
You are. That’s why we wanna send you out on top. We wanna win the ring, and then hoist you up like Rocky. Because you deserve it. You’ve been in this game for a long time, and you’ve done a lot of great things.

Ross
Well, I don’t know if I “deserve” it … that’s a whole ’nother debate. But to see you guys go out of your way for me when you don’t have to, that’s a cool thing. So thank you for that. I mean, that’s how you know you’re making an impact. That’s the thing I’m getting back this year that’s more emotional than anything, because I’m thinking, God, I feel like I’m a jerk to most of my teammates….

Rizzo
You are.

Bryant
You are.

Rizzo
But that’s the thing. Especially during the year and during the grind, I didn’t even realize how much you’d done for me. I mean … I did … but then when you really get to reflect, you’re like, Holy shit, he taught me this and that, and now I know why we do this a certain way. That’s something I never had before in the big leagues, and I appreciate that. And for KB, that’s all he knows now. So it’s easy for him to just carry himself that way and be that example for the guys who are gonna come up after you’re long gone.

Bryant
Yeah. I can’t imagine a better situation to be in. My first year, with Joe Maddon and with teammates like you guys? That’s only gonna make me a better teammate and person down the road, because this is all I know.

GettyImages-485184162a

Ross
What did KB say the other day that we were giving him crap for, Rizz? Oh! He was like — freakin’ Golden Boy over here — he said something cheesy like,“I’m just glad I get to play baseball today.” And we just started raggin’ on him like, “You disgust me!”

Rizzo
Haha, yeah. “You make me sick!”

Ross
Haha. But he’s right. Don’t take that for granted. I’ve thought about that a lot this year — just stepping outside myself and appreciating what’s going on. Looking in the stands. You guys hit homers, and I watch the crowd go crazy. I listen to the “Go Cubs, go!” after we win. I enjoy the little things like running out in the outfield before a game and the people are going crazy in the bleachers and chanting, “One more year!” God knows why….

Rizzo
It’s because you’re a legend!

Ross
Haha, whatever. I’m thinking, Talk to me in October, people. Then see how much you like me.

Rizzo
Yeah, we’ll talk in October. That’s how we wanna end it. Hopefully that can be the last photo on the Instagram account. The ring. Let’s go get the ring, post a photo of it, and when we send you off into retirement, we’ll retire the Instagram account right along with you. The ring can be the last thing. Let’s get it.

Bryant
Let’s get it.

Ross
Let’s get it.

More Than 3,000

The first time I actually met Ichi was his rookie year, at second base -- he ended up at second base pretty often, as it turned out.

Read More