Try to imagine Cody Ross standing on the turf wearing a big red rubber nose.

That's how the Red Sox right fielder once imagined himself -- minus the red socks he wears now. And instead of a baseball cap, a cowboy hat. And a colorful loose-fitting shirt and baggy denim pants.

Ross envisioned a career protecting a cowboy who has just dismounted -- or been thrown off -- a very agitated bull. He wanted to be a rodeo clown.

Then again, he was about 4 at the time, living in Big Spring, Texas.

"My father was a chiropractor his whole life, and as a hobby he would rodeo, mostly team roping. Being a young kid, I adapted to what my dad liked and took an interest in it," said Ross.

"When we would go to the rodeos, I thought roping was kind of boring. I liked the most action, so I'd make him wait because the bull riding was at the very end. I started watching the rodeo clowns, the way they would save the bull riders from getting trampled. They were brave, fearless."

Ross was 7 when the family moved to Dallas. His father sold his horses and got out of rodeo, and Ross shifted his focus to baseball. By the time he was in high school, the family was back in his native New Mexico and he was the star of perennial power Carlsbad High.

The Tigers drafted him in the fourth round in 1999. He made it to the Majors for six games in 2003, then played briefly with the Dodgers and Reds before being sold to the Marlins in May 2006.

On Aug. 22, 2010, they put him on waivers.

"I was upset," he said. "I'd poured my heart and soul into the organization for years, and I wanted to stay there. I think they just wanted to start seeing some of their younger players. and maybe it was to clear a little money off the books, too. At the time, it felt like it was a bad move, but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me."

The Giants claimed Ross, not because they wanted him but because they wanted to block San Diego from getting him, figuring the Marlins would pull him back. They were wrong. Suddenly, they had an unexpected addition to their outfield.

And when Jose Guillen was sidelined with a bulging disc in his neck, Ross was ready. In 33 games -- 17 as a starter -- he played all three outfield positions and batted .288 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

"Bochy came to me as soon as the season was over and said, 'You're going to be my starting right fielder for these playoffs.'"

In four National League Divisional Series games against the Braves, he was the unofficial MVP, going 4-for-14 (.286) with a homer and three RBIs. He was the official MVP in the NLCS against the Phillies (7-for-20, .350, 3 homers, 5 RBIs) and finished the postseason with a .294 average, five homers, 10 RBIs and a World Series ring.

"There's very few times throughout the year when you go to the field and you know that you're going to do some damage," Ross said in April 2011. "Some guys have that feeling in April. Some guys get it in July. It just so happened for me it was in October."

After the 2011 season, Ross became a free agent. He figured he and Fenway Park's Green Monster would get along just fine. So far, so good.

"The kind of way my swing has developed over time, I had a good feeling that this would be a good spot for me," he told NESN.com after hitting his 15th home run of the season (more than in all of 2011) and 10th over the storied wall. "So, this is definitely a great place to hit for a right-handed pull hitter."

And that's no bull.

Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.