BANGOR, Maine — Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross has had a busy off-season.
That’s what happens when you are part of a World Series championship team. And it is the first in his 11-year career.
“It has been a lot busier than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know how to handle it at first but I’m having fun with it now,” said Ross, who appeared Wednesday night for TownSquare Media at a packed Gracie Theatre on the Husson University campus.
“It’s nice to be back up here where you have people asking questions who know the team in-depth, know the guys and what we went through, and what the city of Boston went through with the bombings [at the Boston Marathon in April],” said Ross.
He said he has run into Boston Red Sox fans everywhere.
“Right after the World Series, I went to Miami and I couldn’t walk through the hotel lobby [without being approached by Red Sox fans],” said Ross. “There are Boston fans everywhere. They came out of the woodwork. I feel like I have a connection with guys wearing Boston Red Sox hats. Walking through the airport, I want to go up and high-five that guy.”
He is looking forward to spring training and trying to repeat but said each year is different.
“I know the group of guys we have back are hard workers and I’m anxious to get back and work with them,” said Ross. “I know everybody from the front office to the coaches to the players wants to win. Last year is behind us. Each year is a new year and this sport can humble you.”
He said having the vast majority of the pitching staff back is exciting but everybody is familiar with the Red Sox, their pitchers and their tendencies after watching the World Series.
So repeating will be a challenge.
“And then there’s the health of our pitchers. They threw a lot of innings last year and we have to be wary of that [in spring training],” said Ross, who told the audience it was the “hardest working pitching staff” he had ever worked with.
He predicted that 21-year-old shortstop/third baseman Xander Bogaerts will make the biggest impact among potential first-year starters. He saw some time for Boston last season.
“He is a very special player and he’s even a better person than he is a player,” said Ross, who hopes to have a healthy, productive season after concussions limited him to 36 regular-season games. He did catch four of Boston’s six World Series games, however.
The 36-year-old Ross displayed an engaging personality and great sense of humor during the question-and-answer period.
The Red Sox grew beards as a sign of unity and he admitted that he hated his.
“It was a skunk nest,” said Ross. “I had to put conditioner in it and blow-dry it.”
He said the Red Sox will miss center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed with the Yankees, but added, “I’m going to enjoy throwing him out.”
When relief pitcher Koji Uehara jumped into his arms after the game-ending strikeout in Game 6 of the World Series, he observed “he was light as a feather. I could have thrown him into the Budweiser sign.”
He was glad he caught the final pitch “because I didn’t want to have to run all that way from the dugout to the [celebratory] pile.”
He called Dustin Pedroia a “bearded gnome” and said Mike Napoli’s beard had a “life of its own. It was a beard with a human attached to it.”
On a serious note, he said the team chemistry was unique and they felt they had a legitimate shot to win the World Series after taking three of four from the Yankees in New York to open the season.
He said he has never been a part of a team that was so focused on winning a World Series and never played for an organization as family-oriented and considerate as the Red Sox.
“They took care of everything. They had a family room. They enabled us to concentrate on baseball,” said Ross, who felt John Farrell should have been manager of the year. “He let us be us. There was no ego involved with John. We always felt we could talk to him about anything. He treated us like men.”
He also said the front office would ask them for their advice on trades.
He called Orono native and third base coach Brian Butterfield “the hardest working coach in baseball” and said Pittsburgh-based concussion specialist Micky Collins of Hermon “saved my career.”
He said steroid users ticked him off.
“It’s insulting to me. But until the owners and general managers are punished, we’ll never get rid of the problem,” he said.
Boston and the impressive way it dealt with the bombings left a lasting memory. “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry.
“I have never felt so close to a city so fast,” said the Tallahassee, Fla., native. “We responded by playing as hard as we could. We wanted to give the people something to cheer about.”
He added that he is looking forward to working with veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was obtained in the offseason to replace the departed Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
“I’m not somebody who has to have a big role. If A.J. plays six games and I play one, I’m happy with that as long as I know my role going in. I’m just going to do the best I can and do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Ross.