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BCB interview: David Ross

In which the former Cub talks about curses, the World Series and what he’d tell Yu Darvish if he could.

David Ross at spring training 2017
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

David Ross, who was such a popular part of the Cubs World Series championship team that broke the 108-year drought, has partnered with Modelo on a video to raise attention for soccer and encourage Americans to get behind the Mexican National Team to end their “Fifth Game” curse, given that USMNT isn’t in this year’s tourney.

Ross, who is no stranger to curses with his days in a Cubs uniform, speaks about Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and how he viewed the curse. Ross is accompanied by soccer star Landon Donovan, who actually extended the Mexican National Team curse of the fifth game by scoring a goal in the 2002 tournament, knocking Mexico out.

Here’s the video, sponsored by Modelo:

The folks at Modelo were kind enough to give me a chance to talk by phone with David Ross earlier Friday. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

BCB: Tell me a little bit about the Modelo campaign, how you got involved and what it was like shooting this spot.

DR: Curses in sports are everywhere. Modelo came to me because of my part in breaking kind of a big curse in Chicago, and they’re the official beer of “the beautiful game” and CONCACAF. Fans like to get behind an underdog and to fight to break a curse, and so I worked with Modelo to try to get awareness of this, and through the end of June watch some soccer.

BCB: When you came to Chicago, you might have heard about the Cubs’ drought. What was it like for you to go from team to team, seeing the Cubs from a distance and then come to Chicago and be a part of breaking that drought?

DR: From being on the other side, I always loved coming to Chicago. I think every visiting player loves coming to Chicago, the city, you kind of fall in love with the place. Then I had the opportunity to come with Jon Lester, following him over to the Cubs, and I know playing against them when I was in Boston in 2014, they had a really good lineup. They came into Boston and swept us. We didn’t have a great year that year, but that Cubs team really showed me a lot. I had the opportunity to face Jake Arrieta, he almost no-hit us, and I thought, “That guy’s a stud,” and then knowing Jon might go over there and being in communication with him, we had a chance to maybe do something special, and have a fun pitching staff to catch from a catcher’s standpoint. So that excited me, and when you can follow Jon Lester somewhere, that’s a win. That’s kind of what I was thinking about, and obviously the competitor in me is the guy who wants to break a curse, who wants to do something special, to do something that hadn’t been done in 108 years, doing something special at the end of my career. I knew that was going to be my last contract, then go home and be a dad when baseball was over. Luckily, we made it happen.

BCB: Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about your experience on “Dancing With The Stars,” what it was like to suddenly become a huge celebrity based on what you did there.

DR: First of all, the dancing part was great. Probably the most unique experience I’ve ever had, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do. It was a lot of hard work, being outside my comfort zone, something I’d never done and had no experience in, in front of millions of people every Monday night was extremely frightening. Looking back, conquering that and working hard and getting all the love that I got from Chicago and America voting for me really changed my life. First the World Series, and everything that happened to me there, and all my teammates said about me, getting to “Dancing With The Stars” and seeing all the feedback I got there from people around the world still follows me today. I walk through an airport, I won two World Series, but everyone knows I was on “Dancing With The Stars.” It’s pretty cool.

BCB: Switching back to baseball, and a bit about the current state of baseball, what are your feelings about baseball now being more about the “three true outcomes,” home runs, strikeouts and walks. Should anything be done about that, or is baseball good the way it is?

DR: I think players try to hone their skills into what teams want them to get to the big leagues for and what they get incentives for, what they get paid for. That’ll change when we start playing a different brand of baseball. I’m not the kind of mind that thinks about changing the game to what it was before we had replay and the no-slide rule and all that stuff, so I don’t get into what we should change about the game, I try to find the positives in the game as it is. I don’t love all the strikeouts, I think teams that move the baseball like the World Series champs last year do, will win. Home runs are fun and sexy and I’m all for the home run, but when it comes to winning you have to be able to play the complete game. There’s times when “move the baseball” is productive. The teams that can slug, and get on base, and pitch, are going to have a chance to win, the teams you’re going to see at the end of the year.

BCB: You’re currently doing some work as a broadcaster for ESPN. Tell us how that came about and how you feel about it, a different part of the baseball world.

DR: It definitely is. It’s fun, man, I like doing the games and the studio stuff, it keeps me in touch with the game and in touch with the guys. It’s just fun to still go to the ballpark and talk baseball, I just love talking baseball any chance I get and to do that to an audience with some great fellow broadcasters. Jon Sciambi, who I work with mostly, is fun to work with, and the ESPN family is a tight knit group and it’s a fun place to work. It’s helped me stay in the game and still be home with my family a lot, kind of make my own schedule.

BCB: What are the chances that you’d eventually like to get back into baseball as a coach or manager?

DR: I get asked that question a lot! When opportunities arise, I just look at them as they come up, so until someone actually makes me an offer, it’s hard to go there. I definitely have a passion for baseball, a group of men trying to accomplish one great goal, win a World Series, so it is something I would like to try, no doubt. It’s whether someone’s willing to give me the keys and try to conquer that task. But I also know how much work is involved and I know I’m not ready for that right now. My kids are at a fun age and I want to be a good influence on my kids and be there for them, coach their teams and teach them some of the life lessons I learned in baseball and mold them to be great human beings and that’s goal number one for me.

BCB: You’re in the Cubs organization as a special assistant. What are your duties in that role?

DR: I come to spring training and help out in meetings. I get free rein to speak up and they value my opinion regarding questions about players or decisions that might need to be made. I also sat in on some of the trade deadline meetings, which was a lot of fun, and this year the most interesting thing I’ve done is be part of the draft. That was really cool, you see the backbone of the organization, the amateur scouts. These guys travel all around the country and put their heart and soul into these kids and really get into detail on their background and how they can help the Cubs. So I got to watch all this go down and talk to the agents and find out how this whole process works, how the kids come off the board, see who’s going where, was pretty spectacular, the best thing I’ve done.

BCB: If you had a chance to sit down one-on-one with Yu Darvish, what would you tell him about being a successful member of the Chicago Cubs?

DR: Just relax, I think. I think with big contracts coming in, you try to prove yourself to everybody, I’ve done it with a small contract and Jon Lester had a little bit of that when he first came over to the Cubs his first year, you want to prove to everybody that you’re worth it, to your teammates, your coaches. So I would just say try to relax and be yourself. I think he’s struggling to find himself early on, now it turns out he’s a little banged up, so when he gets back I’d say pitch to your strength and go from there. Chicago fans appreciate honesty and hard work and competitiveness.

BCB: Who’s your favorite current major league player to watch? Doesn’t have to be a Cub.

DR: Oh my gosh! What a tough question. It’s Ozzie Albies. We get to see a lot of the Braves play, it’s close to home and I turn the games on and always see him doing something fun and dynamic. He’s exciting, has power, good leadoff guy. The Braves are a fun team to watch, Freddie Freeman is one of my favorite hitters, and I really like Albies, my “flavor of the month,” I guess!

BCB: Lastly, from my standpoint as a Cubs fan, it was awesome to have you do what you did for the Cubs for two years. You were obviously a big part of the World Series championship and I know you’ve talked about yourself as “just a backup catcher,” but to us as Cubs fans you mean so much more than that. Forever, all you guys will be our heroes.

DR: Thank you very much, I appreciate you saying that, it means a ton coming from a lifelong fan, thank you so much. It never gets old, hearing people compliment you and say they appreciate it, and you know my role was being a small piece of the puzzle. We had such good guys and I’m just happy to be associated with that group. I really appreciate you sharing that with me.

Many thanks to John Manzo for his assistance in setting up this interview. Thanks also to Josh for sending me some of the questions.