How David Ross consumed Cubs games during his quarantine
It’s easy to envision David Ross spending the last week-and-a-half at home in his living room, cheering on his team as he watched on TV.
That’s not quite how it played out but the nine-day quarantine for the Cubs manager was certainly an experience.
Ross tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month after being deemed a close contact with Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. Ross was asymptomatic but because of the positive test, he was forced to be away from his team and bench coach Andy Green took over as Cubs manager.
In his absence, the Cubs went 5-3 with a couple of thrilling victories on the homestand against the Pirates and Reds.
That led to a mixture of emotions for Ross, who made his return to the top step of the Cubs dugout Sunday afternoon.
“With the walk-offs, there’s this super happy and sad moment — why am I not there?” he said. “But super happy in watching Frank [Schwindel] and Happer [Ian Happ], who’s just been through the ringer in the first half. What he has been able to do as of late, super thankful that he’s gotten back on track for him and us.
“I wouldn’t say [I watched games like] a fan. I’m definitely rooting for us. You’re analyzing a lot. After the wins, you’re super happy but also like, man, I’d love to be in the locker room with the music blaring and high fives on the field.”
As an ultra-competitive manager who has been around a lot of winning during his baseball career, it was certainly an adjustment for Ross to sit at home and be unable to affect the outcome during the game.
“You’re just counting down the days,” he said. “I never felt bad at all, so thank goodness for college football and the games on TV on Marquee. Give them a plug because I heard them a lot on TV and watched the games. Couldn’t wait to get back.”
While he was away, Ross was still making out the Cubs lineup on a daily basis. He was in constant communication with the coaching staff and often sent Green specific plays to show the team on video and utilize as teaching moments.
Ross always had a binder nearby packed with information. Every now and then, he would jot down a note or fire off a text to the coaches (who couldn’t check the messages until after the game, as phones are not allowed in the dugout).
He also tried to make the most of his situation.
“It’s just a different perspective,” Ross said. “The main thing for me was seeing how pitches were coming out of guys’ hands. Seeing the at-bats, seeing how other teams attacked our hitters. TV gives you such a different dynamic and I haven’t seen that in a while.
“It was good just to be able to have that different perspective and talk to those guys. We had a lot of conversations with the front office and Andy and Tommy [Hottovy] before and after games about different things.”
Ross also joked that he learned “not to scream as much on borderline pitches” because he realized how many of them actually are balls — something that can often be hard to ascertain from his post in the third-base dugout.
Ever since he joined the Cubs roster ahead of the 2015 season, Ross has commanded a lot of respect in the clubhouse. His presence and leadership loomed large during the 2015-16 playoff runs and continued in his post as special assistant after his playing days.
As manager, Ross steered the ship to a division title in 2020 as a National League Manager of the Year finalist. He also navigated the roller coaster that was the trade deadline and roster turnover this summer.
So when he was gone for a week-and-a-half in the middle of the season, he left a David Ross-sized hole in the clubhouse and dugout.
“It’s a lot quieter,” Green said. “His presence — everybody enjoys being around him every single day. There’s also at times with him there’s a sharp edge that’s good for a culture and good for a clubhouse. He expects to win no matter what roster we have or don’t have and he creates a nice culture that way. We’re pushing towards that every single day.”
More than anything, the time away was another reminder of how lucky Ross feels to serve as the manager of the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s clear I really like my job,” he said, smiling. “The ups and downs of it are what fuel you. I missed these guys. Working with and being a part of a team, it feels good.
“Being home by yourself, I realize I don’t like myself that much,” Ross joked. “It’s just a lot of appreciation and you feel thankful that you have a job and you get to come to work every day in front of thousands of people and what a great staff I have.”