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Book Review: ‘Teammate’

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Cubs backup catcher David Ross has a new book out.

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Throughout his book “Teammate,” co-written with Sports Illustrated writer Don Yaeger, retired Cubs catcher David Ross marvels over the fact that he is even doing the book. He’s right — there aren’t many backup catchers in baseball history writing books — but that doesn’t mean Ross doesn’t have a compelling story to tell.

Again, you know much of this story. The book is separated into chapters giving great detail about Game 7 of the World Series, interspersed with chapters about Ross’ life and baseball career.

You have all heard the stories about how Ross was viewed as a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse and a great teammate (thus the title of the book).

What I didn’t know and was fascinated to read was that none of this would have been possible without Dusty Baker.

Yes, that’s right, Dusty. The former Cubs manager was in his first year of managing the Cincinnati Reds (2008). Ross was unhappy about reduced playing time and let Dusty know. Eventually this led to Ross being unconditionally released, and just a few days later signed by Theo Epstein’s Red Sox.

This chain of events made Ross think quite a bit about what it meant to be a good teammate, and he resolved at that time to work hard to do everything he could to achieve that goal. The description of how he went about this is one of the most fascinating things about the book, and indeed about the career of a man who was a backup catcher, but who became an important figure in the history of two baseball teams.

First, the Red Sox, who signed him again after the 2012 season. Ross became a key player in Boston’s World Series title season in 2013, and that was the year that he became Jon Lester’s personal catcher. It was that connection, along with Theo’s knowing him from the previous stint in Boston, that brought him to the Cubs.

And to think all that might not have happened if not for Dusty Baker. (Baker and Ross talked this out later and are good, according to the book.)

This book has a lot of fascinating inside stories about the 2016 Cubs, told from the perspective of someone who was right in the middle of them. You’ll read some “iPhone Diaries” that Ross kept during the season, reacting to games and situations as they happened. (He was just as frustrated during that 5-15 stretch midseason as most of us were.) You’ll read his perspective of Jason Heyward ’s famous weight-room speech before the 10th inning of Game 7 (Heyward and Ross were also teammates in Atlanta and Heyward, a rookie, credited Ross with helping him adjust to the big leagues in 2010). And, for fun, you’ll learn about how some Cubs players came up with a certain kind of “bump” in the dugout to celebrate home runs.

“Teammate” is a good read because you can see the insecurities that even players at the top of their sport can have. You can’t get these kinds of insights everywhere and I’m glad that Grandpa Rossy (and you’ll also read about how he embraced that nickname and made it his own) was willing to share them with us. The book came about, actually, because Don Yaeger approached Ross and his agent with the idea before the 2016 season even began. And the book is already in development as a film by Radar Pictures.

“Teammate” is officially published as of May 9, but you can pre-order it now (link above). It’s a good read and worth your time.