Take me out to… the ballroom! Veteran catcher David Ross retired from professional baseball in 2016 after helping the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series victory in 108 years. So what’s the first thing Ross wants to do with his newfound free time? Learn to dance, of course! The 39-year-old athlete will be competing on season 24 of Dancing With the Stars with pro Lindsay Arnold.
"I am the first baseball player, which is really, really cool and scary in the same breath,” Ross tells Us Weekly.
Of course, he’s no stranger to performing in high-pressure situations. Ross homered for the Cubs in the final game of the World Series last October, becoming the oldest player to go deep in a game 7 during the Fall Classic. Still, he’s extremely modest when describing his path to the TV dance competition.
"I think there are bigger stars, so many other guys in baseball that they could have picked,” he says. “But I think it says a lot about the team I was on and how much America loved the team. To put me in this situation, a guy who’s been a backup catcher his entire career, basically, and all of a sudden I’m on DWTS… I’m not a special player at all, but I’ve been on some special teams with some special people. I have so many people to thank for it, including my teammates, so I’m trying to represent that group the best I can — that’s how I’m kind of looking at it.”
Arnold has been training Ross for two weeks in his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, and so far, Ross says, so good. "It’s been way better than I thought it would be!” Ross tells Us. "I was so nervous … Well, I’m still going to be nervous to get out in front of millions of people and actually dance live, that’s still a scary thought, but Lindsay’s been a great teacher. The practices are hard, but they’re fun! It’s fun to learn something new.”
And how do dance rehearsals stack up against baseball practice? “I’ve become big on eating breakfast,” Ross shares. “I’ve been filling up on a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch Apple Strawberry because I’ve got to put a good nutritious breakfast in my body to start out the day. I go from breakfast to dropping off the kids at school to dancing for four hours! It’s very, very exhausting and you’re starving when you’re done.”
The dad of three, who plans to fly back and forth between Los Angeles and Florida during filming to stay connected to his family, says his kids are the biggest reason he signed up for the show. "When you do something like this, you’re putting yourself out there and challenging yourself,” says Ross. "I tell my kids all the time, when they’re scared to try something, ‘Look at dad! He’s trying something new.’
It’s paying off too. Ross says that for the first time, he’s finally impressing his kids. "My daughter’s on the moon!” Ross exclaims. “She’s gotten to do all these cool things, like meet Major League Baseball players and different celebrities that come to the ballpark, and she couldn’t care less. And then Lindsay walked in and she was like, 'Oh my gosh!!’ and made a sign for her and was super excited about it. She loves Dancing!”
And are his kids excited to see their dad in sparkles and a spray tan? "They better be excited!” Ross says, laughing, "I’m a guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously. I told Lindsay she can put me in pink and bling me out in rhinestones, it doesn’t matter! Do me up, put me in the outfit — I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that it doesn’t matter if I think other people are judging me. I think I’ll probably be harder on myself than anyone else!”
Dancing With the Stars premieres on ABC Monday, March 20, at 8 p.m. ET.