Although he was never that far away from the game, getting back into the daily grind of a baseball has been nothing but a delight for Robbie Ross Jr.
The lefty reliever spent three seasons each with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox before spending time with the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburg Pirates despite not cracking their Major League rosters.
Last summer was spent on the hill in his native Lexington, Kentucky, but not in a league you’ve probably ever heard of.
The Lexington Herald-Leader caught up with Ross after an outing in the Lexington Adult Baseball League where he wowed batters who were used to pitches coming in roughly 20 mph slower than the 92 mph fastball he features.
He got in the necessary work there and jumped at the opportunity to continue to build on that in hopes of returning to a Major League roster.
“Right now, I’m coming off surgery, I’m trying to bounce from that,” he said before the June 30 contest against the High Point Rockers. “The biggest thing is that I’m just trying to show that I can still pitch and find a consistency and get that day-in and day-out work just to show that I can help this team win and that’s what I’m trying to do is to pitch to the best of my ability and go from there.”
He added that being around players with the same hopes only helps elevate his game and what he brings to the Skeeters’ clubhouse.
“Great group of guys, great management, Pete (Incaviglia) has been doing a heck of a job, when you’ve got management like Pete and guys in the clubhouse who have played in this league and know what to do it’s nice I’m enjoying it so far,” Ross said. “Obviously I’m here to try to do the best I can to potentially move on, indy ball is a great place and it’s a ways to potentially get you to the MLB and that’s obviously where I want to be, that’s where I’ve spent a lot of my time so that’s the biggest opportunity is with Sugar Land so I’m excited for it.”
That return to the diamond, though, does bring back some ulterior hiccups.
“My wife and my daughter are back home and the hardest part is being away from them,” he said. “That is literally the hardest part about playing this game again is getting back into missing them. As much as it’s traveling, it’s tougher when you don’t have your family and where they are is why it’s comfortable but they can’t travel all the time, our schedules don’t mesh right it’s just tough.”
Ross has been able to to get his job done on the mound so far, striking out 13 batters over the 7.1 innings he's pitched over 10 games to help the Skeeters claim the top spot in the Freedom Division in the first half in a facility that surprised him from the start.
"I was very shocked when I came here because I didn’t know this was only built for an independent baseball team," he said. "I was like, 'Wow this stadium is actually a really nice stadium.' I never knew an indy team could have a stadium like this, you hear of minor league stadiums that aren’t the greatest and things like that but this place (has been) well (kept) it’s a good stadium good surface to play on and a good atmosphere."
The Sugar Land Skeeters signed free agent OF Rico Noel. The Toros de Tijuana selected the contract of RHP Matt Ramsey from the Sugar Land Skeeters. The Sugar Land Skeeters also signed free agent CF Wynton Bernard.
The Skeeters embark on their longest road trip of the season Friday when they travel to Southern Maryland to take on the Blue Crabs for three games, followed by three games at the York Revolution and wrapping up with four games at the High Point Rockers. They return to Constellation Field on July 29 for a seven-game series with the Lancaster Barnstormers.
Skeeter of the Week
Dennis Phipps currently sits tied for third overall for the league-lead in the home run category with 14, making him Skeeter of the Week honors. Over 65 games on the season, he has compiled 36 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .500.
Atlantic League First Half Standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
Sugar Land Skeeters 35-35-0
York Revolution 34-35-.5
Lancaster Barnstormers 24-44-10
S. Maryland Blue Crabs 24-44-10
Long Island Ducks 42-27-0
Somerset Patriots 42-28-.5
High Point Rockers 41-30-2
New Britain Bees 35-34-7
Atlantic League Second Half Standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 4-0-0
York Revolution 2-1-1.5
Sugar Land Skeeters 2-1-1.5
Lancaster Barnstormers 0-4-4
Somerset Patriots 2-1-0
Long Island Ducks 1-2-0.5
High Point Rockers 1-2-0.5
New Britain Bees 1-2-0.5
Freedom 3, Liberty 3
Skeeters 5, Ducks 0
Skeeters 4, Ducks 6
Skeeters 3, Ducks 2