Renteria named White Sox bench coach
Former Cubs manager joins Ventura's staff on South Side
CHICAGO -- It was about one year ago when White Sox manager Robin Ventura reached out to Rick Renteria about joining the organization in some capacity.
"Obviously, the timing was not right at that time," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "This time around, with having the bench coach position open, he was a very clear fit for a number of reasons."
Renteria is coming back to Chicago, only on the South Side of town this time around. The former Cubs manager was named White Sox bench coach on Tuesday, with the club also announcing the hiring of Greg Sparks as assistant hitting coach.
The team had a fairly extensive original list to replace Mark Parent, who was let go following the 2015 season after having served as bench coach since Ventura took over as manager in 2012. Ultimately, that opening came down to three candidates with whom the White Sox sat down last week, and Renteria was offered the job.
"His experience as a big league manager and a bench coach on a Major League coaching staff, as well as his managerial experience in the Minors and former playing career, they were all positives in his favor, as well as his high baseball IQ, communication skills, high energy," Hahn said of the bilingual Renteria. "Really, the list goes on with positives in his favor. We are thrilled to be able to add him at this time."
After managing in the Minors for the Padres and Marlins, Renteria served as Padres bench coach (2011-13) and first-base coach (2008-10). Bud Black was Renteria's manager during that stretch, so when Black appeared to be in line to become the Nationals' new manager, it was assumed Renteria would join his staff as bench coach. But Renteria became available when those negotiations didn't pan out and Dusty Baker took the Washington job, with Renteria staying in contact with Hahn.
Ventura and Renteria didn't know each other very well when Renteria served as the Cubs' manager for just one season, in 2014. He was replaced last season by Joe Maddon, who took the Cubs to the National League Championship Series this season. Ventura and Renteria got to know each other over the last month.
"Robin was the one who initially reached out to him last December, maybe late November," Hahn said. "They had a couple conversations then, and got to know each other better over the last month, and we were able to sit down in Phoenix and talk things through."
As for adding a bench coach with managerial experience behind a manager with one year left on his deal in Ventura, a manager coming off three straight losing seasons, Hahn said this point wasn't an issue for anyone involved.
"In the end, we wanted to get to the strongest coach with the best baseball knowledge and the best well-rounded set of skills next to Robin," Hahn said. "That's what Robin wanted."
Sparks, 51, spent the past 19 seasons (1997-2015) in the Athletics organization. He served as the Minor League hitting coordinator in 2015 and from 2004-11, and as the hitting coach with Triple-A Sacramento from 2012-14 and Mesa in the Arizona Fall League in 2014. Sparks' father, Joe, was the White Sox first-base coach in 1979, managed in their Minor League system from 1970-75 and 1977-79 and spent five seasons (1966-69, '73) as a player in the organization.
Greg Sparks was a batboy for the White Sox during the 1979 season, including Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979. He also is familiar with White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson, who worked with Sparks in Oakland before coming to Chicago.
"That was very important," said Hahn of the familiarity between Sparks and Steverson. "We like the idea that Greg has a history with Todd and understands Todd's program and what Todd is trying to teach."