Renteria believes he's ready to tackle Cubs' youth movement

Renteria believes he's ready to tackle Cubs' youth movement
November 8, 2013, 8:15 am
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Tony Andracki

Don't worry, Rick Renteria has been here before.

Not literally, as the new Cubs skipper has never managed in the big leagues nor has he ever been affiliated with the Cubs organization.

[RELATED: Bud Black on Renteria: '(Players) will know where he stands']

But the 51-year-old California native is no stranger to youth movements. Heck, he's been living one the past couple decades.

"I have four kids, so I've been involved in the youth movement almost my whole life and I continue to be involved in that youth movement," Renteria said on Thursday's introductory teleconference. "I think players keep us young. I try to use everything that I've ever had as a parent — moments of frustration or issues that might have occurred in the family — to my advantage.

"I've used that thought process through the game in teaching. Communicating as a — I don't want to call it a father-figure, but communicating in a way that's understanding and compassionate.

"That being said, there are times that you don't like the kids very much, but you always love them. I love my players. I truly, sincerely love my players. I believe the game is about them. It's not about me."

[MORE: Epstein believes Renteria was 'clear' choice for Cubs]

As the Cubs wait for top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant to make their way to Wrigley Field, franchise cornerstones Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo took steps back in 2013.

Castro's OPS dropped by more than 120 points, and Rizzo saw his average dip to .233. In late April, former manager Dale Sveum tried to light a fire under the two infielders by threatening a demotion to Triple-A.

Don't expect Renteria to do that, as the new manager said he won't air the team's dirty laundry publicly. During his introductory teleconference, Renteria stressed the importance of communication with players and holding players accountable, even if it's behind closed doors and the TV cameras don't pick it up.

[RELATED: Learning from Cubs history, Renteria keeping eyes forward]

"I just try to treat everybody with respect," Renteria said. "That goes a long way. Every now and then, you have to be a little firm, but always with kindness, always with love, always with the intent of making things better.

"I want players to feel comfortable in their environment. That dugout is our home, and that team is our family. I think we have to be headed in the same direction. Many times, players will take it upon themselves if something doesn't go right or maybe holding somebody else accountable for their actions.

"My hope is most players will hold themselves accountable. If we do that, then we have a really good chance of moving forward."

Renteria spent eight years managing and coaching in the minor leagues — including a year as skipper of the Kane County Cougars in suburban Chicago — and six seasons on the San Diego Padres' coaching staff, developing young talent.

[MORE: Who is Rick Renteria?]

Renteria, who managed Team Mexico during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, is bilingual and can relate to both American- and Latin-born players. As a former first-round pick of the Pirates, he understands the expectations put on prospects to succeed immediately.

In the month since his name was first mentioned in rumors for the Chicago job, Renteria said he spent time scouting and studying up on the players in the Cubs organization. He saw some young guys who have "tremendous upside" but have endured struggles and experienced failure that he believes will help them in the long run.

"Sometimes, we often get upset about something not going right, as opposed to focusing on what it is we can gain from that particular moment," Renteria said. "Players don't want to do badly. They don't want to strike out, they don't want to boot a ball, they don't want to throw a ball away, they don't want to get picked off, they don't want to drop a fly ball. They want to play the game so that everybody loves them.

"Many times, we forget to help them understand that when they've made a mistake, we can give them some knowledge. We can move them forward. Many times, we get so upset that a mistake was made that we don't even allow the individual to come forward and say 'I screwed up' and we start hammering the individual ... and he loses that accountability and starts focusing on the hammering that he gets because we think we're supposed to do that.

"We have to have a feel for the players."