Cody Ross Diary: Back in the swing

Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. Here he talks about the trade of Kevin Youkilis, the so-called “toxic” clubhouse, what being in the minors on his rehab assignment made him appreciate, and he reveals a surprising friend in baseball that Red Sox Nation doesn’t know about. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta.)

Cody Ross DiaryKevin Youkilis was traded to the White Sox on Sunday. It was hard not to be emotional when Bobby V let us know in the dugout that this was it for Youk. He will be missed. Something I have always tried to do is be an ear for anyone who needs to talk. If whoever is going through something and wants to talk, I’ll be here to listen. I know it was a difficult time for Youk when the trade rumors started. I’ve been in that situation basically my whole career. Trade deadline comes around, my name is always out there. I have never been traded at the deadline, but every single year I’ve been in the talks for some reason or another. Probably because I played on bad teams where they were looking to dump players to get prospects back or something. I will say Youk had such a great attitude about everything. He’d go out and do his work and have a positive mentality. He encouraged guys and wanted everyone to do good. Just because of that, I know he’ll be alright.

For me, it’s nice being back. It felt like I was out for quite a while but it ended up only being a month. The trainers and the doctors did a good job of putting together a good schedule for me to get back and come back healthy. My foot feels great. It feels nice to be back so you can feel a part of the team. When you’re on the DL, there is only so much you can do besides being vocal. So it’s nice to be back and perform.

It was fun when I did my rehab stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox, who were playing in Buffalo at the time. They have a great team that plays hard. They hit the ball really well and pitch well. They seem to really have fun and enjoy playing. You rarely see that on a Triple-A team. It’s normally a lot of older veteran guys who are bitter and think they should be in the big leagues. My time there brought back some memories for me of life in the minors. You forget how lucky and blessed we are as Major Leaguers. Sometimes you take for granted the little things, like just having bottled water in the clubhouse. You don’t have that in Triple-A. Little bitty things like that you take for granted. Another is the training room. They don’t have near the resources or the supplies we have here. They’re obviously on a little tighter budget.

I upheld the tradition of buying the postgame spread for everyone. As a Major Leaguer, it’s kind of tradition that you should do that. Since we were in the state of New York, the clubbie recommended a really good Latin restaurant he knew. So it was rice and beans and pork chops and chicken and this Latin steak that was outstanding and some plantains. Dominican food is my favorite food. So that’s what I got them.

I didn’t need to offer any advice to anyone there because they have a lot of guys with big league time or veterans there trying to get back. I tried to go down there and lead by example and play the game the right way, and not like act like a “big-shot big-leaguer.” I saw Daniel Bard when I was down there who was throwing well. He pitched two innings when I was there. His fastball had its velocity up and he looked confident. He was repeating his delivery and was working on stuff he knows he needs to work on. He’s a big part of this team and we need him. He’s down there working as hard as he can to get back up here and help us.

It felt good to hit a homer in my first game back. Any time you come back off of an injury, you’re just trying to get that first hit out of the way. Luckily for me, it was a home run. I kind of knocked out two birds with one stone. The last thing you want to do is struggle as you search for your timing. I went down to Triple-A and my timing felt good and I was seeing pitches well. I told them everything felt good and I got back up here and everything felt the same. I carried it over and really didn’t feel like I missed a beat.

We started off the week winning three straight at home and took two of three over the weekend. So why are we winning at home more? Baseball is something you can’t put a finger on the reason why. It’s something you can’t explain. It’s one of those baseball things where sometimes you play well at home and sometimes you don’t. As of late, we’ve been playing better at home. We hope to continue that for the rest of the year.

I know people thought it was strange we weren’t playing better at home to start the season. But another strange thing is how it’s also been one of those crazy seasons injury-wise for this team. As a team, you always hope and pray it doesn’t happen like this with so many people getting hurt. But it has, it’s happened. We’ve battled injuries all year. Poor teams use that as an excuse, but we don’t. We feel like we will compete. We will win and fight our way all the way to the end. We’ve have a number of guys come up and do an outstanding job of filling voids. Once we get everybody back and healthy, it will be a lot of fun.

Obviously you have heard the rumors that our clubhouse is “toxic.” We just laugh it off and chalk it up to being in Boston and a part of the Red Sox and the drama. We definitely don’t let it bother us. I think our clubhouse is great. One of the best teams I’ve been on. A lot of really good guys and we all get along and have fun. We play well together. Clubhouse chemistry is big. Sometimes people make it out to be a little more than what it really matters and some people downplay it. I think in order to have a successful team you have to have a mixture of really good talent and people. The main thing is everyone needs to be on the same page as far as pulling for each other. We all have to pull for one another as hard as we pull for ourselves. Once you get that selfishness in a clubhouse, that’s how teams get torn a part.

June is Calling All Kids Month at Fenway. The Red Sox asked me to be the spokesperson for it. I was glad to take on that role. I’m a father of two beautiful kids of my own. My kids are my life. My son, Hudson, is able to come here to the ballpark with me almost on a daily basis. I know he loves it, but I love it just as much. I love just to see the smile on his face and how happy it makes him to be here. He and D’Angelo, who is David Ortiz’ son, are always playing catch together. D’Angelo shows him the ropes since he’s been around here for so long. It’s the one thing that I can sort of hold over his head to be a good kid. I can tell him all day that he won’t be able to watch cartoons and he won’t care because he doesn’t really watch them. But if I tell him if he isn’t good he won’t be able to go to the field, he’ll straighten up quickly. I asked him recently about playing baseball someday and he was like, “No, I want to play hockey.” I told him whatever he wants. If he sets his mind to it, I told him he can do whatever he wants.

Speaking of kids, we have a bunch of young kids who have been called up with Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava, to name a few. As a veteran, I feel you’re supposed to help the younger guys. I know when I was a young kid coming up when I messed up or had a tough error, a veteran player would come up to me and offer words of encouragement and try to show me and tell me how and what to do. I don’t know if somebody wouldn’t have done that to me whether I wouldn’t have done the same for Kalish when he made an error and I tried to cheer him up. It’s tough to say. But that’s how I was treated and that’s how I’ll continue to treat young guys. I love this game. One day I won’t be able to play anymore. I want this to still be a good game when I’m gone and our generation is gone. I want the new young players to still play the right way.

I was happy to see the Braves come to town this weekend because my best friend is over there. Dan Uggla and I met in 2006 when I was on the Marlins. We instantly became best friends. We’d be on the road and go and get breakfast together. In the clubhouse, we’d eat at the same lunch table. We’d take the cabs to the field together, eat dinner together. There was rarely a time we weren’t seen together. He just has such a great personality and is fun to be around. He’s a funny guy. We just got along really well and formed this bond and friendship that will be a lifetime.

When I was with the Giants, I tried to get him to come over. I tried to put a good word in for him. But he signed a nice deal with the Braves, which is perfect for him because it’s close to his hometown. Then this offseason came around and the Braves showed some interest in me. Uggla was trying to get me to come. He was talking to the manager, Fredi Gonzalez, to help the situation along. This game is funny. You try not to burn any bridges because you never know when you’re going to be playing with someone or for someone. So we’ll see if we end up playing together again someday. As for new friends I’ve made on the Red Sox, there’s a lot of guys that on any given day I could call up when we’re on the road and say, “Hey, let’s go grab breakfast.”

Red Sox Nation may be surprised to learn about who another good friend of mine is ... Aaron Boone. Me and Aaron are really good friends. We also formed a friendship when we were both on the Marlins in 2007. I was friends with his brother Matt Boone first when we played together with the Detroit Tigers. In fact, we were roommates. He’s a great guy and was always talking about his brothers Bret and Aaron. I finally got to meet both of them and Aaron and I obviously got to become good friends. He lives right down the street from me in Scottsdale and we play golf together a lot and go to the same church. Our families are close. We go out to dinner and over to each other’s homes. He was really happy for me when I signed with the Red Sox. He knew this would be a great fit for me. He’s another lifetime friend I’ve made in baseball. Maybe Red Sox Nation can forgive him for 2003 in 10 to 15 more years.