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Chris Ross: Born to Play in the Dirt

When most baseball players travel by bus to a tournament in West Virginia's 40-degree weather, they take the food stops to eat and try to stay cool in the shade or inside. Chris Ross would spend these breaks outside in the steaming empty parking lot, searching between ditches for rocks and fossils. A supremely talented baseball player that not many people knew what to make of. But one thing was certain; he was born to play in the dirt. 

Chris was born and grew up in Barrie, Ontario. From the very beginning, he was exposed to things most people couldn't tell you the first thing about: rocks. His family home was filled with them; anywhere from the fireplace mantle to the tables, you could find rough gemstones and minerals everywhere. The youngest of 2 kids, a son of a prospector and fish biologist, family vacations weren't going to the beach; it was rock hunting in the Maritimes or amethyst collecting in Thunder Bay. 

With parents who never pushed him to play sports but with a grandfather who won baseball championships while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy and was also invited to training camps for a couple of MLB teams, it seems baseball for Chris came naturally. Chris initially started with softball and, at age twelve, made the jump to baseball. 

The following 6 years were spent on the turf playing for the local Barrie Club and, eventually, the Central Ontario Reds. His talent on the field was something that people started to take notice of. In his final two years in high school, he won every sports award he could and would go on to throw the first and only no-hitter in Eastview Secondary School history.

When looking to the next level of baseball, two things were a must when looking at post-secondary schools. It had to be in Canada and have an academic program that allowed him to study geology, which left him the option of either Queens or Laurentian University.

His 18U coach at the time, Kirby Smith, knew the Laurentian coach very well, as Kirby himself studied and was an assistant coach at Laurentian. Seeing the Sudbury campus, the curriculum of academic study and the athletic opportunity at Laurentian, the grade 12 knew it was the place for him. In the fall of 2018, he committed to playing baseball and studying Earth Science at Laurentian University for the 2019/2020 year.  

During Chris' first year at school, his father, who had retired from his day job a few years back, obtained his prospector's license, and his hobby of rocks became a full-time project. With Chris' help, they obtained claims within the municipality of highlands east. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the geology student ventured out on family mining claims in the Haliburton/Bancroft area as a prospector's assistant under one of the people he admired most, his father.  

For the next two years, Chris would get experience assisting with basic mineral sampling, orientation, traversing, mapping, and geological interpretations. With his father, they would collect and find a variety of rocks and minerals, including apatite, titanite, hornblende, mica and feldspar crystals. Like his family house in Barrie, his room in Sudbury has the rocks they found scattered around his family claims. 

After a couple of years of work, Chris and his dad are excited that the property is almost ready to be put up for lease. This means a hobby and father-son activity might one day become a profitable project.

On top of his love for rocks, Chris was also exposed to something else that quickly became just as rewarding; coaching. After his time with the Central Ontario Reds, he wanted to give back to the club that turned him into the baseball player he is today. Coaching kids ranging from 8-15 years old and even volunteering with the younger group at the local Sudbury Baseball Academy. As Chris describes, summer weekends are either on the road at a tournament coaching or in the bush looking for rocks with his dad. As a baseball player for almost a decade, initially, he didn't expect to learn much from being a coach. But when he reflects on coaching over the past few years, he knows it not only made him a better baseball player but really changed him as a person. The rewarding feeling of helping the younger generation succeed is something that Chris could only describe while having a massive smile on his face. 

Now in his 4th year in Earth Sciences, he just finished up his 3rd official OUA season, where he took a leadership role, being one of the team's captains. That, along with his on-the-field accomplishments of hitting .333 on the OUA season, makes him extremely excited to return for a 5th and final year where he will be a captain for the second straight year. The team, which will be composed of mostly all the same players as last year, with a couple of recruits coming in, knows they have an opportunity to give the heavy hitters a run for their money and maybe even compete for a ring. 

With his on-the-field goals, Chris will be pursuing his prospector license this summer to become an official partner with his dad on their family claims. He also hopes to continue his on-the-field hobby of coaching the next generations of ball players wherever he may be.

As he looks towards the future, Chris doesn't know where he'll end up, and frankly, he seems to just go with the flow, but what Chris does know and has known since he was a kid is that no matter where he is, he will be doing what he loves, playing in the dirt, and sliding into home!

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