Tyson Ross is working on the return of Major League Baseball

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It was a stormy spring at UC Berkeley for former Major League Baseball player Tyson Ross. With two young boys in the house, time management is key for the Auckland native who, now the final exams are over, plans to show the big league teams that his right arm can help them win the pennant, despite not throwing him a professional pitch since 2019 .

“There is more left in me,” said the American Studies major, a graduate-level course and 30-page dissertation shy of graduating this fall.

In May, before a bout with COVID-19 delayed the bowler’s comeback, Ross was hitting 94 mph with a fastball, the hardest he’s bowled in years. Friday afternoon, with final exams approaching, he took a respite from his academic and athletic endeavors to sink his teeth into a Gordo Taqueria burrito while soaking up the sun on a College Avenue bench.

“I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day,” Ross said, as the day, which began at 6:30 a.m., collapsed. Sanzeri at Mission College. After returning home for virtual study groups in preparation for final exams, he helped his wife Ashley take care of 3-year-old Jordan and 7-month-old Jackson before heading through the Caldecott Tunnel to Berkeley.

I followed Ross to Worthy, a self-care studio on Ashby Avenue. There he met former baseball teammate B.J. Guinn, who invited players from his baseball camp to try cool dips, infrared saunas, red light therapy, and a meditation room.

Ross and Gwen, both black, are committed to cultivating diversity and equality in a sport that is experiencing a sharp decline in black representation. Oakland Babe Ruth, the predominantly black minor league where Ross starred in his youth, went from a perennial national champion in the ’80s and ’90s to now struggling to field teams. At the MLB level, the proportion of black players has fallen from 18% in the 1980s to about 7% last season.

“If you can control your breath in an ice bath, that translates to a baseball field,” studio owner, UC Berkeley graduate and former college junior basketball player, Melissa Makrani, explained to young baseball players in her studio entry room. Ross visits the self-care facility about once a week and relies on Mokrani’s five-point recovery plan — movement, nutrition, rest, heat and cold therapy, and mental health — to avoid burnout.

Baseball players and their parents are taught physical recovery techniques at Worthy’s self-care studio in Berkeley. attributed to him: Jasmine Gwen

Bishop O’Dowd High School graduate played three seasons at Cal before being selected in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft by Oakland A. When he reached the majors in 2010, Ross wore the number 66 jersey on the hill to honor 66th Street, Street Which connects the Oakland Coliseum to Greenman Field in East Oakland, where Ross, at age 11, became Babe Ruth’s first-star and played in the World Series for Small Championship in Indiana.

During three seasons with the A’s, Ross featured one of the best skaters in baseball. The devastating pitch will turn away the right-handed hitters, locking up the left-handed. However, the lack of physical and mental care prevented him from realizing his potential.

When the pitch show was scheduled to begin the next day, Ross was allowed to leave the A’s night matches before the final. Instead of using the franchise to get the convenience and nutrients needed to take on the MLB rackets, Ross opted for Oakland staple, Everett and Jones BBQ, or Cybelle’s Pizza. “He showed up on the back of the baseball card,” Ross tells young players, likely referring to the 6.50 earned run rate in 2012 (4.01 runs allowed was the league average for bowlers that season).

Ross’ best MLB season came in 2014 with the Padres, when he made the National League All-Star team and scored a 2.81 ERA. The following season, he led the National League with 33 starts and posted an impressive 3.26 ERA. Ross played for four teams over the next four seasons.

When the coronavirus pandemic postponed the 2020 season, Ross had time to reflect on his future after the injury-strewn 2019 season with the Detroit Tigers. When police killings of unarmed black civilians led to protests across the country, Ross joined a group of black professional baseball players in forming the Players Alliance, which aims to build equality and diversity in the game. That was when the pitcher launched Loyal To My Soil, using The Players Alliance’s funding to provide free baseball camps in Oakland.

Tyson Ross works on baseball basics during Loyal To My Soil free baseball camp in March at Northern Light School in Oakland. attributed to him: Nick Luzito

This past March, Ross set up a free clinic in his primary school at his elementary school, Northern Light School. In the East Oakland Hills schoolyard, join Tyson Ashley, father Willie, and mother Frankie. First Division and Giants player Vida Bleu, the 1972 MLS Player of the Year and Cy Young Award winner, threw the balls to the young players participating in the program.

“A lot of black players feel like the opportunity doesn’t exist,” said Gwin, who often volunteers at Ross’ camps. Guinn had 1,108 minor league players over five seasons with the San Diego Padres organization, but he never had a chance in the major leagues. The Berkeley High School graduate now runs Shortstop Management LLC, a youth baseball school that aims to prepare players for the game’s most demanding defensive position. “Baseball is an expensive sport, and it’s hard to get resources early on. It’s a skill sport, and it needs skill training early. We provide resources to those who wouldn’t otherwise have them.”

After ripping his Achilles tendon while with the Padres organization, Guinn recovered to play two seasons with an independent team before suspending the pro cleats. Also, his father, Brian Gwen, did not stand a chance in the major leagues after a long career in the minor league. (In 1987, Team A traded Brian to Cubs for a future Hall of Fame closer to Dennis Eckersley.)

“Giving everything we had was the most important thing,” BJ, 33, said of his and his father’s career. “That’s what we’ve been able to live with. So don’t fall into bitterness or ‘what if?'”

BJ Guinn talks to his baseball players at Shortstop Management about how physical therapy extended his baseball career. attributed to him: Jasmine Gwen

Ross plans to write his dissertation on American Studies on the decline of black players in Major League Baseball and the socioeconomic factors that create this disparity. During the spring, he attended a lecture at UC Berkeley given by Dr. Harry Edwards, the sports sociologist and activist who organized the 1968 Olympic protests in Mexico City, where black track athletes from San Jose State — Tommy Smith and John Carlos — raised their fists during the medal ceremony. Edwards’ words reinforced Ross’ desire to make an impact.

“I was a student-athlete and a student-athlete, and now I’m a student-athlete,” said Ross, his younger brother, Joe, who plays the pitcher for Team Washington. “I understand that there is more to life than just baseball. The ability to make an impact in society is greater than what you can do on the field.

“Dr. Edwards says athletes can use their voices to speak up for what’s right. A lot of times people don’t want to do anything extra. A lot of people get out of their necks and risk losing their jobs, whether it’s[Colin Kaepernick]or athletes talking about problems. Mentality.

“I’m just trying to develop baseball.”

Ross and his agent, Joel Wolf, plan to conduct Bay Area scouts in the coming weeks, with the goal of landing the right-handed bowler a place on the roster for a minor league team. From there, he could compete for a spot on a major league team, most likely as a comfortable pitcher.

“The longer you wait the harder it is to get in,” Ross said, noting that the upcoming MLB draft will bring more competition for limited places on the roster. “I hope there is a team that has a need and it’s in the play-off.

“Just give me a number, a locker, and a place in the minors to compete.”

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