The Chicago Cubs introduced a familiar face as its new team manager on Monday.
Former catcher David Ross talked to NBC 5's Mike Berman about his biggest challenges, his management philosophy and the fan name you'll never catch someone calling him on the field.
How quickly will someone be benched if they call you "Grandpa Rossy" instead of "Skip?"
The people that know me, those guys know. The fans call me "Grandpa," the players don’t. I’m "Rossy," they know it, and now I might be "Skip." I’m getting a lot of text messages from the players, “Congratulations 'Skip,' can’t wait to play for you." A lot of cool messages, actually, from former teammates that have said some nice things...couldn’t be a better man they’d like to play for. Stuff that hits the heart. So I’m excited. Yeah, there will be no "Grandpa" in the dugout, that’s for sure.
Which players have you heard from/talked to, and what have the conversations been like?
Johnny Lester and I went back and forth a little bit text messaging. Rizz has called me, asked me about the process, what that was like, what’s spring training going to be like. I’m like, “Bro – let me get this press conference out of the way and then we’ll talk!" Ian Happ’s reached out to me, Daniel Descalso, a lot of guys have reached out and touched base. I told them I’d get this press conference out of the way and then we’ll have some good conversations.
How will you balance having relationships with these guys and holding them accountable?
I think these guys know, especially the ones that have already played for me, the relationships that I have, what kind of person I am at heart. I’m a positive guy, but I don’t take less than your best. I’ll call you out if I see less than is expected. So my goal is to set these standards, set these things that I think in place that I think entails winning, that I’ve seen in winning my entire career, and hold guys accountable to that. And then hold me accountable. I want to build relationships and trust. I want them to know I love them and I care about them, but I also want them to know the truth. And I think, I respected my managers when I played, when they shot me straight, and I hope to do the same.
You’ve never been a manager, but you say you’ve prepared to be one. What do you think your biggest challenges will be?
I think some of the challenges for me will be that initial learning how to run a game, relying heavily on my coaches. I’m going to make some mistakes, I don’t have all the answers, I know that going in. I’ve never played for a perfect manager, I don’t know that there is one out there. I’m going to communicate well, I think that’s key for me, and I’m going to rely heavily on my coaches.
My bench coach is going to be extremely important, talking things through. I think it’s going to be like riding a bike, I think I was managing from the dugout already. In a catching position, you’re kind of managing the game a little bit. But just seeing the game from a different view in the dugout, that’s what’s going to be important, how to implement the things I feel and I’m seeing, and be one step ahead of the game.
How beneficial will the last three years be, spending time with Theo and Jed?
That relationship has nothing but grown. And knowing the R&D, the analytics side of it, probably my weakest part. Just diving into those numbers and how those guys see the game, and balancing that. I think that’s something that was so valuable in these last 3 years. And then doing ESPN stuff, being able to travel to these different teams and talking to their managers, and seeing what a good clubhouse from another perspective looks like. All those things have been extremely important. But the 3 years with Jed and Theo and seeing how much work goes into putting this product on the field – it’s a lot, and these guys care a lot about their success, so I trust these guys.
You know what it meant to help deliver a World Series to this team and city. How much are you driven to do it again as a manager?
It drives me. I’ve been a part of winning and I want to do it so bad. When you get out of this arena, even as much as I enjoyed TV, you get out of this arena, and there is something about being in that dugout and being a leader of men. Being a part of something special, a group that’s going to make history. I’m so passionate about that. I want that so bad for myself, my teammates and this city. That’s what drives me, man.
I didn’t come back for the uniform, I didn’t come back for the money, I came back to make history, and that’s why I’m here, and that’s what I expect out of my players, I know the fans expect that from us, so that’s what I’m passionate about man. I’m excited. It would mean a ton to me, it would mean the world to me to raise another banner and hold that trophy again.
Joe Maddon had a lot of success, but Theo has said he wants change. What do you want to change right away?
I always want to put my own stamp on it. I think Joe has brought a lot of great to this organization, a lot of great attributes that I’ll use in my day to day preparation and how I think about things and run things. But for me, I want to put my own stamp on this team and create relationships, create a trust with this group. That’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to say what was wrong when you’re in the day-to-day grind and seeing it from a bird’s eye view. I just want to put my own stamp on this team of what I expect and the things I’ve seen on winning teams I’ve been on, that’s what I want to do.
Do you think you'll be nervous?
Oh yeah. Nerves drive me. I was nervous before this press conference, I was nervous before my interviews, I’ll be nervous before spring training and conversations. But the nerves drive me. It makes me prepared, it keeps me focused. I think if you’re not nervous, you don’t care, and I care a great deal because I’m extremely nervous a lot.