La Vida Voices: Rick Renteria’s Game

Managing, like cooking, involves a bit of chemistry, finding just the right combination to make things work. The goal? To produce something better than its individual parts. As the Chicago White Sox prepared for spring training, manager Rick Rentería spoke with editor Adrían Burgos, sharing his approach to managing an increasingly more diverse team and how he navigates the intricacies of Spanish dialects, as well as chatting about one of his other passions, cocinado (cooking).

Rick Renteria

Language plays a big role in how you communicate. Dialects are an important element in communicating in Spanish, especially between the Caribbean islands, South American countries and Mexico. For example: ahora and ahorita. How do you deal with that?

I try to make sure I understand both aspects of it. And many times I get corrected… It’s just a different way of using the words. I do think that, and I’ve said it before, it’s not in and of itself that you speak the language, Spanish or English or whatever language you speak. It has more to do with how you create a message, how you can present it. Make guys understand the concept that you’re trying to impart to them. And if it works, they get it. And if it doesn’t, you keep trying to find a new way.

The White Sox team you’re tasked with managing is incredibly diverse. There are players on the Sox roster from Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and newcomer Thyago Vieira is from Brazil. How has growing up in the United States as a U.S. Latino shape your ability to manage a roster with so many countries represented?

That’s a good question. The United States is a diverse country. You have people coming from every walk of life. I don’t try to focus so much on where they’re from. I look for baseball players. I look for guys that play the game. I don’t base my decision on who they are, how they’re going to play based on what their backgrounds are. My biggest source of comfort is I’m looking for baseball players: Guys that can perform, guys that work hard, guys that are going to commit themselves to a task. And I think that, to be honest, anybody who’s in the big leagues has to have that attitude. It’s not an accident that they’re here. There are a lot of factors that influenced them getting into a position to be in the big leagues and a chance to have the opportunity to live a dream.

This year, you will be looking out from the dugout at Guaranteed Rate Park in Chicago at a talented young group of players from all over the world on the diamond. When you see that diversity on the field for the White Sox, as their manager, what goes through your mind as one of only (now) three Latino managers in the majors?

I’m pretty excited about all the guys that we have. I think that the organization, as a whole, has done a really nice job in acquiring and drafting and developing a lot of the guys we’re having right now. I think that the city of Chicago, on the South Side especially, should be very proud of the guys who are coming through the system right now — and who will, hopefully, be here in the near future, impacting us in a big way in terms of wins and losses and helping us try to bring the championship to the South Side.

Your experience growing up in California as the son of Mexican immigrants shaped who you are today. What was the biggest lesson that your parents taught you?

Just don’t quit. I think no matter what your circumstance, there’s always a solution. At least you can try to get to that solution and you keep working. And I think that you don’t let any obstacle, let anything hold you back. Believe in yourself and work hard, as hard as possibly you can. And try to obtain your goal.

You love to cook; it’s part of your Mexican roots and culture. If you had to cook a meal to recruit a ballplayer, what would you make him?

I would probably make him, as you guys saw, my ceviche plate and do that queso fundido con chorizo and lobster. It’s pretty good.

Who would be three people you would love to cook dinner for and why?

Well, I only have those two plates that are actually my specialty. It’s a great question. President Obama, President Bush, and President Clinton. Pretty diverse. That’s America.

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