Brittany Ross just shakes her head. She doesn’t know why her husband put up with it all.
Robbie Ross endured relentless hazing his rookie season, but always had a smile on his face. The Texas Rangers’ veteran bullpen didn’t take it easy on the lone Opening Day rookie reliever last year, making the 22-year-old Robbie put on the most ridiculous outfits throughout the season.
Nobody will forget Cowboy Robbie Ross trotting out to the bullpen before each game with a vest, straw hat and toy shotgun along with a pink backpack. Or the time Robbie wore the wrong jersey during a game, participated in a cow-milking contest and lost a pant leg from a pair of jeans for being tardy one day.
“He loved it, I hated it,” Brittany said. “I wanted to know who did what and what car they drove. But he’s always happy. He’s never in a bad mood for more than 30 seconds. It’s almost annoying, but that’s what attracted me to him.”
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Brittany and Robbie met their sophomore year at Lexington (Ky.) Christian High School and have been attached at the hip ever since.
“They locked up and nobody else even got a glimmer,” Robbie’s father, Chuck Ross, said laughing.
Robbie knew in high school that Brittany was the woman for him, although he admitted he didn’t know how people would accept their interracial relationship. Brittany is of African-American descent, while Robbie is white.
“Honestly, it was something I didn’t know what people would think,” Robbie said. “But it’s not like a huge issue. I think you just have to accept people for who they are and what they are.”
Brittany agreed, and said their friends and family accepted it from the start. Brittany had attended predominantly white schools growing up and simply was “attracted to what was put in front of me.”
On the surface, Kentucky might not seem like the most understanding state but, as Brittany said, Lexington isn’t backwoods Kentucky.
“In the hills where people have no teeth, they might not be too accepting of it,” she said. “But I just thought he was handsome.”
Robbie’s marriage to his high school sweetheart is certainly a reminder of who he is and one of the reasons for his success at such a young age. He’s a happy-go-lucky pitcher who sports the ever popular “frohawk” and, as stated, had no problems handling an endless string of rookie hazing last season.
It’s been quite a ride to the big leagues for Robbie, too, who in five years has gone from high school soccer and baseball star to a big-league pitcher competing for the fifth spot in the Rangers’ rotation.
Soccer, in fact, is the sport Robbie was most associated with in high school. He was known more as a speedy forward with a penchant to score goals, rather than a left-handed pitcher who could touch 90 mph.
“I heard Robbie Ross throws a 90 mph fastball, but I had no idea what that meant,” said Brittany, who was on the cheerleading squad. “Baseball was kind of the loser sport in our school, and I didn’t know anything about it.”
What it ended up meaning was Robbie had a future in baseball. The Rangers selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft, and lured him away from a commitment to the University of Kentucky with a $1.575 million signing bonus.
Chuck Ross was somewhat hesitant to see his second of six children pass on college, but he knew Robbie had the ability to compete in the minor leagues. Chuck had spent five seasons in the Brewers’ farm system as a catcher, but never made it to the big leagues.
“I knew he had a shot to do it, but thousands and thousands of players die in the minor leagues,” Chuck said.
Robbie, though, survived and thrived in the minors by posting a 2.88 ERA over three seasons. He then became a surprising success story last spring, pitching his way onto the Rangers as a lefty reliever in his first big-league camp. And he had great success with a 0.95 ERA in the first-half and finished the season with a 2.22 ERA over 58 outings.
Now, Robbie is one of the leading candidates for the fifth spot in the Rangers’ rotation.
The success at a young age has certainly impressed his teammates, but more than anything they enjoy seeing his smile whether he’s on the mound, milking a cow or giddying on down to the bullpen before the game.
Colby Lewis, whose locker is next to Robbie’s, summed it up: “Everybody loves Robbie.”