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David Ross is in Dad mode this offseason.
The Tallahassee resident and Chicago Cubs manager is enjoying the moments with his three children. Time is a precious commodity and Ross is determined to make his time with them count.
Even as Major League Baseball is in its first offseason lockout in its labor history.
“It’s fun, the stuff you miss and want to be a part of when you are working,” said Ross, entering his third season as the Cubs manager.
“It’s nice to watch them continue to grow. I don’t know that you ever feel you get enough time with them. But it’s happening (growing up) so fast.”
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Cubs preparing for 2022 season
Ross, of course, also continues to focus on his responsibilities with the Cubs. He recently traveled to Chicago for a week-long pitching seminar with his assistant coaches.
The organization is trying to move forward with 2022 plans – pitchers and catchers would normally be preparing to report to spring training next month.
However, it appears very little progress has been made toward a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players. Additionally, teams are prohibited from talking with their players during the lockout.
Ross – a big believer in communication and building relationships – admits that aspect has been difficult. He’s also a former 15-year MLB catcher with two World Series titles, including in his final season with the Cubs in 2016.
“I think that’s the one thing I miss in the offseason right now, that connection – a lot of those guys (players) are my friends,” said Ross, 44, who is signed through 2022 with a 2023 team option.
“That’s the unique part for me. Being on the other side, I understand it and it’s not anything out of the blue, but being in this spot is definitely a challenge. But it’s also been a good opportunity for me to connect with my coaches ... really plan (for the season) a little bit more intently.”
Ross’ managerial start has been far from traditional.
He directed the Cubs to the National League Central title during the pandemic impacted, 60-game 2020 season. The organization traded established starters to playoff contenders during the final two months of 2021 as it lost 91 games and officially started a rebuild. And the threat of a postponed spring training looms this year.
Improving leadership skills
Despite the unusual backdrop, Ross has stayed busy and enjoyed this offseason. That includes further developing his leadership skills.
Ross met with Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski prior to the Blue Devils’ overtime defeat to Florida State Tuesday at the Tucker Civic Center. Krzyzewski talked about reading body language, saying, “People speak to me all day long. Most of the time they’re not using their voice.” Ross also attended an FSU football practice last fall and visited with coach Mike Norvell, leaving impressed with Norvell's energy, vision and organizational skills.
“Their leadership style, how they organize their thoughts, how they plan, what their priorities are,” Ross said of the opportunities to meet other coaches and professionals.
"Little nuggets here and there to help me organize my thoughts. I am so young in my job and so green as well, while getting some unique experiences, whether it’s COVID, the lockout … I am just trying to constantly learn and figure out my style. And to see what (lessons) I can pull from others.”
Ross, also known for his energy and upbeat personality, firmly believes it’s important to make daily steps of improvement towards a larger goal.
“It’s purpose, right? You wake up every day with something that needs to be done,” Ross said.
“Finding that purpose I think is hard a lot of time when you have been competing at a high level. I feel like I know so little within my job description and there’s so much knowledge around me. It’ never stops, trying to gain a little more knowledge, thinking about things a little differently, what’s the 1-percent that’s going to be the difference maker for a player or a coach or the organization as a whole.
“I have (people in) leadership ahead of me and those conversations are fun.”
Family focus for Ross this offseason has naturally included athletics, too.
He traveled to Atlanta last weekend to watch his teenage daughter’s travel volleyball team finish second in a national tournament. His son has baseball tryouts this week as he advances to a bigger field. And his youngest daughter attended her first introductory soccer practice.
Community is also important to Ross, who attended Florida High.
For the 14th consecutive year on Saturday at Chiles High, Ross helps with a local Father-Son Baseball camp that features fathers participating in drills with their sons. Ross also wants to start a local charity event of his own in the future.
He's a familiar face in Tallahassee.
“I live here, this is home,” Ross said.
“It’s fun to come back (after baseball season) and see people who have been part of my life, or at some point we’ve crossed paths, or played together, went to school together, know my parents… I have a lot of memories here.
"It's a special place."
Reach Jim Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: David Ross on MLB lockout: Cubs manager enjoys family, preparation