As a major-league player, Rick Renteria will never forget the 1994 season.
Sweating out the final spot on the Florida Marlins’ roster, Renteria boarded the team charter at the end of spring training and kept waiting for the dreaded tap on the shoulder.
In the eleventh hour, Renteria feared he’d be pulled off the plane and designated for assignment.
Renteria made the cut, but it was another case of nothing coming easy.
As a player, Renteria was not talented enough to just get by. He made himself versatile and logged innings at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and designated hitter in brief stints with the Pirates, Mariners and Marlins.
He was always paying attention to detail, always looking for any edge to stay in the majors.
Now a week into managing the Chicago White Sox, Renteria is tapping his experience as a player and making a positive first impression.
"I don’t think these guys are thinking about rebuilding," Renteria said. "These guys are thinking about winning. But we also know it’s a process, and that aspect requires us to do certain things. The outcomes will take care of themselves. If we play sound, fundamental baseball, we always have a chance to come out on top on a daily basis.
"It’s going to be the club that makes the least amount of mistakes. We’ve talked about that all spring. They understand it and that’s what they’re going to try to do. Hopefully, it gives us a chance to compete on a daily basis."
As they prepare for their first road trip of the season, the Sox are 2-3.
While they want to win as many games as possible, the White Sox’s record is not as important as developing good habits during the early phase of a rebuild.
"I’m happy with the effort," Renteria said after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Twins. "I’m happy with the way they’re preparing."
There have already been plenty of teachable moments through the first week of the season, and Renteria has the experience and passion to guide players like Jacob May, Tim Anderson and Avisail Garcia.
General manager Rick Hahn has been impressed with Renteria since the early days of spring training.
"Two major things we’ve talked about from the start have been his energy and his ability to teach," Hahn said. "Those certainly came through throughout camp. His meetings on a daily basis were all-inclusive, he had the players participating, had them engaged. And from time to time, very subtly, when there was an issue, he addressed it head-on and the issue went away.
"He’s been precisely what we expected. Again, we’re going to be tested here over the coming months and perhaps over the coming years, but I feel very confident that he’s the right guy that will help shepherd us through it."
As a high energy player, third baseman Todd Frazier likes having his new manager on the same wavelength.
"The meetings we’ve had and the energy we have, it’s all been positive and a plus," Frazier said. "You have to take accountability for yourself and show Chicago what we are about. I’m sure everybody doesn’t have us on their list of doing anything. But if we play baseball like we know we can and (follow) our leader Rick Renteria, we will be all right."