David Ross is not the ‘Grandpa Rossy' you thought you knew


More people might be familiar with the "Grandpa Rossy" persona than with David Ross' given name.

After all, "Grandpa Rossy" is a public hero - the affable backup catcher whose likeness is synonymous with the 2016 Cubs World Series championship that ended a 108-year drought. Grandpa Rossy made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live," was a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" and was always wearing a smile on his face whenever he was shown on the big video board at Wrigley Field with "Forever Young" blaring over the loudspeakers.

But that's not at all the guy the Cubs just hired to be their 55th manager in franchise history - the guy they hope will take them back to the promised land.

Theo Epstein's front office wanted their new skipper to be able to hold the players in the clubhouse accountable and to form a winning culture that includes hard work, focus, intensity and everybody going through moments where they feel uncomfortable so they can push forward and become the best versions of themselves.

They think Ross is the guy to lead that charge and it's not because of his alter-ego.

“I know there’s a big fun-loving Grandpa Rossy theme out there, but if you ask any of my friends or ex-players what kind of teammate I was, I didn’t shy away from the tough conversations," Ross said in his introductory press conference Monday morning. "I know there’s a strong relationship with me and Jon Lester. If I would’ve been mic’d up for some of those conversations on the mound, they were rarely friendly conversations. 

"I think there’s a little bit of a misconception about the fun-loving Grandpa Rossy, which I love and I’m very thankful for. But I don’t think that’s me in the dugout, as much as I would love to say that I’m that guy. To the core, I’m a guy that has a lot of expectations when I come into work. I’m very professional, I expect professionalism. And those traits - the effort, the accountability - I don’t shy away from having those tough conversations, good or bad. 

"I know these guys, I hope to build their trust and respect. They will have mine. I hope to gain theirs. The Grandpa Rossy thing is a little overblown - people that know me and I think some of the media that sees me day-to-day knows that.”

As the Cubs enter the offseason, only a handful of players remain from the "Grandpa Rossy" days and even that group may get whittled down more as Epstein and Co. make moves and shake up the roster. But Ross is still a step ahead of the game as a new manager because of those relationships formed with guys like Lester and Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez that have only grown over the three years since his retirement.

Ross joked he already told Lester he can't wait for the first time he gets to walk out to the mound and pull the veteran pitcher from a game in the middle of an inning.

But he also talked more seriously about his time as a player and how he called attention to aspects in those guys - and other Cubs players - that he felt needed to be fixed in order for the team to win. The results speak for themselves, both on and off the field.

Epstein has talked to some of Ross' former teammates to get their take on how he would be as a manager and how he might make that transition from teammate/friend to boss.

"I will say, that is the least of our concerns just based on the way he conducted himself as a teammate," Epstein said. "He wasn't somebody who needed to praise guys to high heavens to be their friend or to make them feel good about themselves. He'd be *the* guy telling players what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. And they would still keep coming back with bonds of friendship and bonds as teammates and brothers. 

"After talking to a few of our players, I think some of them were rooting for somebody else just so they'd get a little bit easier road for them," Epstein joked. "...David's just always uniquely gifted that way where he can be hard on guys. He will be very direct, he can cut right to the core of the issue. It's hard to get away with anything around him because he'll hold you accountable. 

"Yet, somehow, he's just got that magnetism and that personality where guys want to be around him. I've seen it where he's leveled a guy and told him exactly what he needs to hear and later that night, they're the ones going out to dinner that night to keep talking it over and also having a good time."

Still, this will be a transition for everybody - from those within the organization to the fanbase that is used to relentlessly cheering Ross and loving that "Grandpa Rossy" vibe.

From now on, he will be judged solely on wins and losses.

"It is different - I'm no longer the fun-loving grandpa I think everybody perceives me as," Ross told NBC Sports Chicago's Kelly Crull. "They’ll see a little bit different side of me I think now." 

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