None of Ross’ former Braves teammates were surprised to see him overcome a concussion last season to become a key contributor during the Red Sox run at the World Series title — in both the culture and the clutch.
Not only was Ross one of the first Red Sox to sport an overgrown beard, but he caught each of their four World Series wins. He also drove in the game-winning run with a double off Adam Wainwright in Game 5 against the Cardinals.
Ross said he owes a lot of last year’s success in the playoffs to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to start him over an injured McCann in the one-game wild-card playoff against the Cardinals in 2012.
Ross hit a two-run homer to give the Braves an early lead in that game before a Chipper Jones error and a controversial infield fly call became the bigger stories of the night.
“Playing in that wild-card game was a huge boost of confidence from Fredi,” Ross said. “Putting me on that big stage helped me last year be a little calmer in that situation. I have a lot to thank for the Braves.”
With the reputation he built in Atlanta, Ross signed a two-year $6.2 million contract with the Red Sox at age 36. The Braves weren’t offering that kind of money or years, so it became an easy choice to play for one of the most storied franchises in baseball.
Ross sees his time in Boston as the perfect complement to his years with a Braves franchise he grew up rooting for – he was born in Bainbridge, raised in Tallahassee and played college baseball for both Florida State and Auburn.
“I loved it here; I really did,” Ross said. “Barring our last year’s World Series team, the group of guys that we had here for four years was maybe the best human beings on a daily basis that were fun to come to work with. Bobby Cox, especially early on, when I played for him and the environment that he created here — it was fun to come to work every day here…
“When you’re from the South and you get to play for the Braves, it’s a treat,” Ross continued. “And playing for this organization and the people that make this thing run — it’s a lot of fun to come back and see those faces.”
One of his former Braves teammates he gets to see quite regularly now is Brian McCann, who is catching for his American League East rival Yankees. That’s another time when Ross is oddly quiet.
Two of the chattiest Braves around the clubhouse and dugout don’t have a lot to say, apparently, when one of them steps into the batter’s box while the other is behind the plate.
“We know how much we care about each other, and you just don’t want to open your mouth,” Ross said. “You get serious. It’s awkward because we’re such good friends. It’s the first time ever I think either one of us is rooting against the other person, like I’m trying to get him out and he’s trying to get a hit off my pitcher.”