Dreams can come true. If you don’t believe, just ask 1990 Newton High School graduate Tim Buss, who is celebrating as a member of the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs’ organization.
“I was on the bus with the World Series trophy when we were coming back from Cleveland. They brought it back to me and said, ‘ride with this thing for a little while,” Buss said. “I show up every day for my job and I pinch myself. I love the game and I love the players.”
Buss has been the strength and conditioning coordinator for the Chicago Cubs since 2001. He knew the Cubs long before then.
“I’m a lifelong baseball fan and a die-hard Cubbies fan,” Buss said. “Growing up right by Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Newton, I’d go out to play ball, come in turn on WGN and watch the Cubbies then go back out to finish play ball.”
It has been a whirlwind for Buss and the Cubs. He said the parade and rally were amazing a week ago.
“What an unbelievable experience this has been,” Buss said. “The parade and rally were controlled, happy mayhem. The streets around Wrigley Field are still busy and crazy, but a good crazy. The fans are writing on the the wall. It’s amazing.”
For Buss, it started with a couple of contacts in the late 1990s and in 2000.
Buss was a standout player for Newton as a shortstop and is in the NHS Baseball Hall of Fame. He went to Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls playing shortstop there then played shortstop forIowa Wesleyan University at Mount Pleasant.
“When you’re a young ball player the dream is always to play in the big leagues. I was one of those men, who when I became a senior in college knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Buss said. “So, I changed gears toward a physical education degree. I was going to be a P.E. teacher.”
Buss said he had another slight change in course toward the health and wellness aspect of physical education. After graduating from Iowa Weslyan, he began working as a personal trainer for Perfect Game, Inc.
“Perfect Game is a wooden bat league and baseball school in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. I met the longtime Iowa Cubs athleteic trainer Bob Grimes and he had heardof what I was doing with programs for high school and college players,” Buss said. “He told me I should apply for an internship with the Cubs.”
Buss applied and was hired as an intern strenghth and conditioning coach for the Iowa Cubs, Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate in Des Moines. He said he served as an intern in 1998 and 1999.
“It was tough just to go through the interview process then. I worked spring training and the instructional league for the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. It was just the minor league players,” Buss said. “In 2000, my boss said he could get me an interview with the Los Angles Dodgers. They could pay more than the Cubs could as a minor league strength and conditioning coach.”
Buss went to work for the Dodgers’ Single-A affliate the San Bernardino Stampede for the 2000 season. He said he was a coach as well for the Stampede throwing batting practice, working with several of the position players and leading the stretching and conditioning programs.
“Our catcher that season was David Ross,” Buss said.
Ross is a member of the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs catcher annoucned he was retiring following this season.
“David was starting his playing career and I was starting my coaching career at the same time and same place,” Buss said. “David probably had one of his top 3 greatest seasons of the career this year. He hit a home run to help the Cubs win it all.
“What a final game he had — to go out as world champions. He is not just a great player, leader and role model. I consider him a great friend.”
When the Cubs were down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, Buss said he was leading a group of players in stretches and Ross shared with the group.
“Hey, we got this. Bussy and I were down a couple of games at San Bernadino in the playoffs and we came back and won the California League title. We can do this,” Ross saidaccording to Buss.
After working stints as strength and conditioning coaches in the baseball minor leagues with the Cubs and Dodgers organizations, Buss received a telephone call on Christmas day 2000 and he had his dream job.
“While I was working the instructional league in the fall of 2000 with the Dodgers organzation, I was called and told the Cubs’ major league strenghth and conditioning job was open. I knew I didn’t have a chance to get it, but they wanted me to go through the interview process and learn from it,” Buss said. “Then I get the phone call on Christmas day — ‘Welecome to the Chicago Cubs.’”
Since 2001, Buss has been responsible for making sure players on the Chicago ballclub are as healthy as possible to play up to their potential throughout the season. It starts with off-season individualized strength and condititioning programs developed by Buss.
He said he creastes and develops the off-season programs for each individual player then visits as many as the players as he can during the off-season. Spring training brings Buss to setting up workout regiments and running the stretching program for the team.
“In the regular season, my duties change from when we’re at home and when we’re on the road. On the road, I’ll take a group of players to workout and stretch,” Buss said. “My job comes down to making sure the team is as healthy as possible and we get the most out of our investments with the players.”
Buss said he works with the major league players. He has a minor-league strength and conditioning coordinator and coaches he works with to have the program throughout the Cubs organziation.
Buss has worked with nine mangers over his 16-year career with the Chicago Cubs. His first manager was Don Baylor. The Cubs have been managed by Joe Maddon the past two seasons.
“Last season was one of we struggled around the All-Star break then began winning games. We’re in the playoff hunt and make it to the NLCS against the Mets, and lose,” Buss said. “This season was one of we’re going to do it. This was a great group of players. I’m a firm believer players play better when they are loose, relaxed and having fun.”
Buss said the Cub players fed off the energy Maddon brought to the team every day. It was a great ride.
“When we were down 2-1 to the Dodgers in the NLCS, Joe had me take the lineup card out before Game 4. We won the series,” Buss said. “When we were down 3-1 to Clevelond, Joe came to me and said ‘here it’s yours’ sending me out with the lineup card again. But I also took the lineup card out for Game 1 of the World Series and we lost.”
Buss said there was never a hang-our-heads and let’s go home moment for the Cubs. They stayed positive, he said.
“I realized when it was all over and we had come back to win Game 7, you can forget about what it all means to the outside world. We’re worried about the dugout, and what is happening on the field and after the games,” Buss said.
“I was in the weight room most of Game 7, which is right behind the dugout. There’s just so much bench space in the dugout. I’d tell every player who came into the weight room to stay positive.”
Buss said it was a roller coaster of emotion — the Cubs go ahead then the Indians tie it up and it rains. He said Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward spoke to the team in the weight toom during the rain delay.
The Cubs came out and broke the 108-year drought. The Chicago Cubs were World Champions.
“As a boy, I would write out a box score for each Cub game and I’d cry if certain players were traded,” Buss said. “You forget what it means to fans. I had more than 150 text messages from friends telling me thank you and we’re proud of you and the Cubs.”
Buss said they were all enjoying the ride. He said he kept asking himself did we just do that?
“I don’t know what I did in my life to deserve being a part of this, but I’m glad it has happened,” Buss said.
During the Cubs’ World Championship Rally in Chicago, Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo gave Buss a shout-out. Buss said to have Rizzo do that in front of more than 5 million people was special.
He said he was looking forward to the Cubs’ visit to the White House and receiving his World Championship ring.
“In a couple of weeks, we’ll be back to work on the off-season routines and getting ready for 2017. What a dream come true for me, this team and all of the Cub fans,” Buss said.