It may not have the same allure as Yoenis Cespedes’s three-wheeled rubber-burning whip, but after Jason Heyward got paid by the Chicago Cubs, he made sure his first big purchase was a meaningful one.
Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs this offseason after spending the first five years of his career with the Atlanta Braves and 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals. The 26-year old outfielder has the proven production under his belt and presumably has plenty of years left in his career, so the signing, one of many for the Cubs, and securing of a potential offensive and defensive cornerstone was a no-brainer in Chicago. Cubs catcher David Ross, however, is entering a different stage of his career.
Entering his 14th season, Ross has spent his time in the big leagues establishing himself not as a bona fide star but rather a serviceable backup who apparently has done wonders for locker rooms and young players in the role of a mentor. Despite not carrying the highest batting average, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat that Ross was worth keeping around solely for his affect on the team’s clubhouse atmosphere.
“Too many times you portray players as clubhouse leaders and that’s done way too loosely for me,” Maddon said. “With him, it’s legitimate. He is a clubhouse leader. Despite not hitting .275 or better, he still maintains his stature in the clubhouse because of the respect people have for him for how he goes about his business. When he says something, it’s pertinent and right on.
“I really don’t care what he hits batting average-wise — it makes no difference to me,” Maddon said. “Whatever he hits is gravy for me, for us.”
The 38-year old has announced this will be his final season, bringing an end to the journeyman’s tenure in the MLB — Ross has played for seven clubs in 14 seasons. In that time, Ross has likely assisted dozens of young players, including a fateful turn with the Atlanta Braves in 2010, the same year Heyward made his rookie debut. It was Ross’s actions that season that have seemed to have deeply resonated with the Cubs’ new slugger, as Heyward used his latest paycheck to make life comfortable for the veteran.
As an act of gratitude for Ross’s mentorship during his first standout campaign, Heyward has upgraded all of Ross’ hotel rooms to suites for the upcoming season, a move that has really stuck with the backup catcher through all the kind gestures that came upon his announcement. Per MLB.com:
“That’s one of the first emotional moments I had in the offseason,” Ross said. “[Heyward] texted me this nice long message about supposedly what I’ve done for him. That was cool to start reflecting back and people you’ve played with start saying nice things.”
The move is an uplifting one and proof of the impact “glue guys” and locker room leaders can have on a team.
Now, with Ross made comfortable, all that’s left for the J-Hey Kid is the simple task of gifting a World Series title to the Cubs.