Bill Ladson

Ross expects crowd for first Bay Area start

Nats pitcher, who's from Oakland, will be cheered by loved ones in finale

Ross expects crowd for first Bay Area start

SAN FRANCISCO -- It will be a homecoming for Nationals right-hander Joe Ross on Sunday against the Giants, when he will be pitching in front of family and friends at AT&T Park.

Ross went to the stadium numerous times as a kid to watch the Giants play, but it will be the first time the Oakland native will pitch against his hometown team.

Ross acknowledged that he is excited to be pitching against San Francisco, but says closer to gametime, he will be a little nervous.

"Only because my family will be there," Ross said. "Who knows how many of my friends will be there and the people I know in general. It's going to be fun. I like pitching in front of a big crowd. To have my family and friends out there, that's going to be very special."

It's not the first time family and friends have come out to see Ross. They were all in attendance on June 6 at Nationals Park when Ross became the sixth Nationals pitcher to make his big league debut this year. It wasn't a bad outing, but he picked up the loss as the Cubs won the game, 4-2.

The biggest surprise for Ross was when his boyhood friends came from California to attend the big day.

"It was awesome having them there and then going out to celebrate with everyone, which was cool," Ross said. "Five or six of my close friends came. I was very surprised. They also said they would want to come for my debut and that was as far away as they can get, and they still made it out. I was very excited to see them."

Ross may be a little nervous at the start of the game, but he is known for his composure on the mound. It's one of the reasons he is in the Nationals' rotation. Ross doesn't get rattled with runners on base.

Ross credits his father, Willie, for teaching him to stay composed in a game. For example, when he was 10 years old, Joe wanted to cry after he lost a game, but Willie would make it a point to tell his youngest son not to show his emotions on the field. Willie felt crying would be a momentum builder for the opposing hitters.

In the Major Leagues, opposing hitters have a .230 batting average against Ross and he hopes to shine in front of his family and friends on Sunday afternoon.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.