Storybook year for 'Grandpa Rossy' coming to an end with emotional final game at Wrigley

Storybook year for 'Grandpa Rossy' coming to an end with emotional final game at Wrigley

David Ross doesn't like to cry in front of the cameras and a bunch of strangers in the media.

Who would? 

But the veteran catcher couldn't help himself when a reporter asked what he said to pitcher Jon Lester as they embraced during the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night.

Ross' eyes starting tearing up and he immediately turned to face his locker, shielding his emotion from the bright lights of the TV cameras and the rest of the world that just saw a 6-foot-2, 230-pound 39-year-old man start to cry.

"I just said I loved him and thanks for everything," Ross said simply, still fighting back tears. "... It starts and ends with Jon for me. There's not a better way to go out your last start catching Jon Lester, a guy that's won a World Series for me and doing the things he's done for me personally.

"He's a friend of mine and to be on this stage here, my last time at Wrigley, catching him was a pretty amazing moment. It's hard. There were a lot of emotions for me before the game started."

Ross - who is set to retire when the Cubs' season ends - has already had a year to remember and it will now come to a close either in heartbreaking fashion or he'll ride off into the sunset hanging on to one last taste of the ultimate glory.

In the final home game of his career, Ross stepped up big for a Cubs team that needed a spark.

Ross and first baseman Anthony Rizzo teamed up for a couple nifty foul pop-ups, but Ross contributed with the bat, too, working a very solid at-bat and driving home Ben Zobrist with a sacrifice fly in what turned out to be the game-winning run.

"Pretty cool," he said. "I've had a storybook year. There are so many things I could talk about that have happened to me over this year. That's just another cool one to get the sac fly that puts us ahead and we hold on.

Ross also nabbed Francisco Lindor trying to steal second, ending the sixth inning in what may be his final act on a baseball diamond.

"They got one off me, but I got one back. We're even," he said, while also declaring he likes throwing guys out on the basepaths more than even hitting home runs.

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But Ross' greatest moment Sunday night may have come the inning after he was removed.

Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder was on hand at Wrigley to sing "Take me out to the Ballgame" and dedicated the performance to Grandpa Rossy.

"That was really cool," Ross said. "For him to say those things about me, I was taken aback. Everybody's looking at me like, 'Dude, Eddie Vedder just dedicated the whole Seventh Inning Stretch to you.'

"My mind's blown and I'm thinking about being out of the game. ... Everybody knows who Eddie Vedder is and this guy says my name. It's a huge compliment."

For a journeyman catcher who played 15 years in the big leagues but topped 250 at-bats just once, Ross has probably talked to the Chicago media this season as much as anybody with the Cubs apart from Joe Maddon.

After the Cubs' Game 5 win with their backs against the wall, there were more media members staking out Ross' locker than anybody else in the room and he talked for almost 20 minutes.

But that's not his fault at all. The TV cameras flock to him as a well-spoken, intelligent baseball mind and a father figure to the rest of a Cubs clubhouse that has now won 213 games over his time in Chicago the last two years.

Ross tried to keep Sunday night just like any other day, but he admitted he was trying to keep busy so he wouldn't have time to just sit and dwell. 

He has made it a point to try to take in the moments throughout his final season, but he actually avoided that for the most part in Game 5, trying to keep the emotions and nostalgia at bay while maintaing focus on the game.

"I'm trying to win the World Series," Ross said. "I'll have time to reflect on my career and these special moments. 

"I've been trying to keep that at bay and just focus on the World Series and these guys in here. This is a very talented group and I'm glad we could keep it going with a win."

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

You saw this one coming, right?

As the Cubs’ longest tenure player, Anthony Rizzo was a shoo-in for this group. He hasn’t relinquished his starting first baseman job since making his Cubs debut in June 2012. The guy’s longevity alone is impressive.

But besides that, Rizzo has been a model of consistency during his time on the North Side. Since 2012, he’s hit 217 home runs (averaging 27 per season) and hit 32 three times from 2014-17. The lone exception? 2015, when he hit 31. So close…

As a Cub, Rizzo is a .277/.376/.496 hitter with a 132 OPS+. He produces at a high clip each season, whether he’s hitting third, cleanup or leadoff, all while simultaneously playing stellar defense. The 30-year-old is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2016, 2018-19).

Rizzo is the guy who comes up huge in key moments but will be there to address the media after tough losses. He’s the de facto captain of the Cubs, the guy who suffered a nasty ankle sprain in September that could have ended his regular season. Instead, he returned four days later for a key series against the rival Cardinals, as the Cubs were fighting to keep their October dreams alive.

When he’s not leading his team on the field, Rizzo is giving back to the community off of it. He’s one of the most charitable athletes in the world and recently raised $1.3 million for children’s cancer research at his “8th annual Walk-off for Cancer” in his home state of Florida.

Rizzo was the first building block of the Cubs core which snapped their infamous 108-year championship drought, but he’ll be remembered for more than that. He’s a leader on and off the field, the clear choice for starting first baseman on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Derrek Lee, Bryan LaHair

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

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