At just 23 years of age, Dancing with the Stars professional Lindsay Arnold has made a name for herself. Now, she’s stolen the hearts of Chicago Cubs fans as one half of #TeamLadyAndTheGramp.
When former Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross was announced as a celebrity for the latest season of Dancing with the Stars, fans clamored to support him. With three weeks of competition in the books, fans aren’t only backing Ross – but have fallen for his fiery partner, Lindsay Arnold.
A fierce competitor, much like Ross, Arnold features the same fun-loving nature that made Ross so relatable to baseball fans during his career. She’s not a morning person, can eat more than the average male (although you’d never know it by looking at her) and head butted her now-husband when they kissed for the first time.
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Really, she gives Grandpa Rossy a run for his money in terms of how endearing she can be.
We sat down with Arnold to talk about the latest season of DWTS, her experience working with professional athletes on the show and to get an up-close look at Ross as he works toward an end goal of the coveted Mirror Ball.
"He’s a hard worker which is something I think you’d expect because he won the World Series twice. He obviously knows how to work. He also is so willing to try anything I ask of him. He’s been my first partner who is like that. Most of my partners have things, like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. It’s embarrassing,’ or ‘It’s weird.’ He is down for everything and anything – and he does it confidently, which I love. He’s just a confident person and is comfortable in his own skin."
Talent beyond her years, Arnold eyes the Mirror Ball
Ross became a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse for so many reasons in the final two years of his career. Amidst players – most of whom were 10 to 15 years younger than him – he helped teach Chicago how to win.
Now, he’s hoping that he can bottle that championship spirit and combine it with Arnold’s wisdom and choreography talent – which far exceeds her years. She won over Cubs fans on the season premiere, when the couple performed to ‘Go, Cubs, Go’ to strong reviews.
"Before the performance, it was our first show together. As a pro, you’re just waiting to see how your celebrity reacts. Every single one reacts differently. To some, it’s no big deal and some of them freak out. I think David was somewhere in the middle. He was a silent nervous. I could see the anxiety in his eyes a little bit but he was trying to play it off like nothing was wrong and he was totally fine."
Taking Andrew Miller, one of the best relievers in baseball deep in Game 7 of the World Series? No problem. Mastering the steps and best practices behind a full-blown dance routine with no previous experience? Well, that’s the goal each and every week for Ross, who has garnered support not only from fans but his teammates, as well.
"When he saw his teammates were watching, he got a little tear in his eye. And I’ve learned since then, he’s kind of a baby. I don’t want to say baby, he’s a softie. He’s definitely an emotional guy. You don’t see that in a lot of athletes, especially ones that come off so tough on the field. He’s a softie, that’s for sure."
Don’t sleep on #TeamLadyAndTheGramp
Heading into this season, Ross’ appearance on the show was a feel-good kind of story. No one expected him to be good, let alone post his highest score of the year on a ‘Magic Mike’-themed performance to 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop.’
But, that’s exactly what happened.
Arnold is no stranger to performing with professional athletes. Last year, she took Calvin Johnson to the finals, finishing third in the competition. The things Megatron was able to do physically impressed fans – but also forced Arnold to approach her choreography in a different way.
"Calvin is a different human. There were so many challenges I had to choreograph around with him. First of all, he was a lot taller than me so any time we were dancing in frame, it was almost impossible because I was so short that I basically couldn’t dance in a proper frame because I had to match him. I had my arms stick straight when they’re supposed to be a little be softened. That was definitely hard for us. We had to find different ways of moving that were different because of our height difference."
With Ross, the height difference is more manageable. It’s simply the matter of doing what Arnold does: take a 40-year-old father of three with no previous dance experience and turn him into a polished performer, one week at a time.
As for Grandpa Rossy, Arnold says he’s been a perfect blend of competitor and open-minded student. There’s nothing he won’t do to win – and it’s been an experience she says she’s never had with previous partners on the long-running show.
"I think with David, he’s trying to outperform himself every week. He’s mostly focused on getting a better score, getting better judges’ comments every single week. At the same time, at that first elimination, I saw that fire in David’s eyes. I saw him kind of switch from ‘this is fun’ to ‘this is a competition.’ People will go home every week and he does not want that to be him."
Ready for more – every single day
Ross has always been a competitor. But during his playing days as Jon Lester‘s personal catcher, he earned the reputation of the guy who calmed down his tandem mate. The southpaw is known to be emotional on the mound and be his own worst critic. Now, Arnold says, the roles have switched for the two-time World Series champion.
"When he’s frustrated, he’s so hard on himself. When it comes to training, there will be days where I have to calm him down. I think that comes from the athlete mentality. He wants to be perfect which is great because it pushes him to be better. At the same time, I’ve found myself having to coach him through the emotional side of this. He’s gotten better at handling that – but it also shows me how much he cares about this."
Humble as ever, Ross told us he’s just hoping to show his kids that it’s alright to try something you might not be good at. He’s approaching things one day at a time, with Arnold by his side, coaching him every step of the way.
"He’s just going to be him and if people love it, awesome. If they don’t, then he’s happy with who is he and what he’s doing."