Tyson Ross - Family Man

July 23, 2007

by Scott Ball (this story originally appeared in the summer issue of Cal Sports Quarterly

For Tyson Ross, Cal's supremelytalented sophomore right-hander, it isall about family.

In Ross' case, it is not only about his immediate family -father Willie, mother Jean, sister Francesca and brother Joe- but his Golden Bear family, as well. For this phenomenalcollege pitcher who is developing into one of the school'sall-time greats, the campus of the University of Californiahas almost always felt like home.

'I used to go to Cal baseball camps every summer growingup,' explained Ross, who was raised in Oakland andattended Bishop O'Dowd High School. 'First it was formercoach Bob Milano's camp when I was eight, then itwas David Esquer's camp from then on. I would even go tothe All Sports Camps up at Strawberry Canyon. It seemedlike I was always at Cal playing sports. It was a part of mygrowing up.'

Ross has now matured into a robust 6-5, 215 pounds andis utilizing all the skills he acquired as a Cal youth camperto the fullest of his abilities. He is the Bears' No. 1 starteron the mound and has established himself among the upper echelon of collegiate pitchers. After animpressive freshman campaign in 2006 inwhich he was selected honorable mentionAll-Pac-10, going 6-4 with a 3.19 ERAand 85 strikeouts in 84.2 innings, Ross waseven better in 2007.

This past spring, Ross was named a semifinalistfor the Golden Spikes Award as thenation's top collegiate baseball player, andwas among the Pac-10 leaders in strikeouts,earned run average, innings pitchedand opponent batting average. He was selectedthe March 25 National Player of theWeek by Collegiate Baseball after strikingout 16 batters, only three away from theschool record of 19 set by Larry Colton in1963, with only one walk in seven inningsagainst Oral Roberts.

On the year, Ross was a hard-luck 6-6,but had a 2.49 ERA with 120 strikeouts in115.2 innings. An indication of his toughfortune, he lost four, one-run games, includingtwo, 1-0 decisions. Ross threw atleast six innings 15 times during the season,including a complete game at StanfordMarch 2.

For his career, Ross already has 205strikeouts in 200.1 innings with a 2.79ERA. His strikeout total places him ninthon Cal's career list and just 79 K's awayfrom the school record.

'I remember when I first stepped on themound as a freshman, I was thinking aboutall the Cal games I had watched growingup,' said Ross. 'And I think about all thekids watching me now, just like I used towatch Cal players when I was young. Ilearned back then, watching those games atEvans Diamond, I wanted to be a Bear.'

Ross also learned how to throw his dominatingcurveball from his future pitchingcoach as a youth camper at Evans Diamond.

'I learned how to throw a curveball fromcoach (Dan) Hubbs at Cal Camp when Iwas 15,' said Ross. 'With his help, it camereally easy for me.'

It is not every day that a coach gets achance to teach a youngster a craft, andthen has the benefit of coaching that playerin college and seeing him develop into oneof the nation's best.

'No doubt it is a unique circumstance tobe the one who taught Tyson how to throwa breaking pitch and then to have the opportunityto see everything progress forhim,' said Hubbs, who is now in his eighthseason mentoring the Cal pitching staff.'He has a chance to be better than anyone Ihave ever coached at Cal. He has unbelievablepoise on the mound. The key to Tysonis his feel for the game ... how instinctualhis pitching is. He is an excellent athlete, acomplete pitcher and his work ethic is secondto none. He is a joy to coach. But asgood of a baseball player as he is, he is aneven better person.'

With his engaging smile and easy-goingmanner, as well as his ability on the field,Ross has become an ambassador of sorts for the Cal baseball program. He is part ofCal's youth brigade that listed 26 underclassmenon the 39-man squad this pastspring, including freshman outfielder JeffKobernus, who was a high school teammateof Ross at Bishop O'Dowd.

'It is a lot of fun to have `Kobe' on theteam,' said Ross. 'We are starting to havefun here like we did in high school ... goingout and having a good time on the field andwinning. I really like this team. It is mostlyBay Area kids who have played together onall-star teams or against each other. We havea feel of local pride with a lot of friends andfamily around to cheer us on. I love it hereat Cal - the school, the athletics, the townof Berkeley. We have great coaches. CoachHubbs and coach Esquer are great peopleto work with. With coaches like that, thesky is the limit. I am really looking forwardto the future.'

In addition to pitching for the Bears,Ross also has experience as a two-yearmember of the USA Junior National teamin 2004 and 2005. A highlight for the Oaklandnative in international competitioncame in the fall of 2005 when he threw fiveshutout innings against powerhouse Cubain a tournament in Villahermosa, Mexico.This summer, Ross will be with the USANational team for the Pan American Gamesin Brazil and World Championships in TheNetherlands.

Having had the opportunity to travelaround the globe representing the UnitedStates, it is his relationship with his familythat helped convince Ross to stay local andattend Cal.

'My family is very important to me,'said Ross, whose father, Willie, is a pediatrician,and mother, Jean, is a nurse at theChildren's Hospital in Oakland. 'That iswhy I went to Cal, to stay close to home somy family could see me play.'

Intending to major in American studies,Ross would like to coach some day aftercompleting his degree and playing baseballprofessionally. With his tall frame, goodvelocity and wide array of pitches, the Calhurler is projected be one of the nation's toppicks in the June 2008 Major League Draft.

When time allows, Ross also enjoyshelping his dad coach his younger brother,Joe, 13, who pitches and plays shortstop,just like Tyson did as a youngster. Ross'sister, Frankie, also an athlete, is a senior atBishop O'Dowd and will be playing soccerat Portland State next fall.

'Beyond Tyson's ability, he is a productof a good family,' said Esquer. 'He is thetotal package in what you would want in acollege athlete ... he does all the little thingsthat make someone successful. His Fridaynight performances have been as good asanyone we have ever had. Tyson is so welllikedthat players from his junior nationalteams want to come to Cal. He is one ofthose people both likeable to younger kidsand likeable to adults. He has a smile thatis infectious.'

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