Updated: December 5, 2013 10:08PM
Rick Renteria met the Chicago media for the first time Thursday as the new Cubs manager, but he had a special connection to the team and to Wrigley Field decades before.
As a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986, he played his first game at Wrigley on Sept. 14 and got a hit in his only at-bat.
‘‘He had his picture taken in front of the park,’’ his wife Ilene remembered. ‘‘It was the only place he ever had his picture taken.
‘‘I’m not just saying this -- this was the job he always wanted. He was absolutely thrilled.’’
Ilene Renteria said the stars aligned perfectly in his ideal job coming at a time when their three sons are grown and their daughter is in her first year of college.
Rick Renteria, who turns 52 on Christmas, believes the same can happen for the Cubs after three of the franchise’s worst seasons.
‘‘I don’t think in terms of the past except for where the organization has been,’’ he said. ‘‘My attitude is to move forward.
‘‘I compare it to a batter who thinks he had a bad call on the first pitch of an at-bat. You still have to grind through that at-bat and you can’t keep thinking about that first pitch. You have to keep grinding and move forward.’’
Renteria, who was the bench coach for Bud Black with the San Diego Padres for the last three seasons, said he will have a measure of familiarity with the team, having worked under general manager Jed Hoyer when Hoyer was with the Padres.
‘‘It will be nice to be in a familiar setting with people I’ll be working along side,’’ he said. ‘‘I expressed to them this was the place I wanted to be.’’
Renteria spent the majority of November reaching out to players, starting with shortstop Starlin Castro.
‘‘People ask me about Starlin. He was one of the first I spoke to and we spoke at length. I watched him from the other side and thought ‘what a tremendously gifted athlete.’ He’s willing to do whatever we ask him to do.
‘‘The reality is you have to have dialogue. You have to put forward as best a plan on how [each player] can move forward.’’
Renteria said he assembled a staff designed to teach his style and approach to the game.
‘‘They’ll bring the idea that we want to teach,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to present a consistent message. I want this to be a club that gives tremendous effort. We want to be a club that is aggressive on the bases and is smart. I’m very excited about the guys we have now and the talent in the organization.
‘‘You don’t go into a season anticipating failure. No player wants to go out and fail. The game is about peaks and valleys and about the players and I understand that. We have to help them in those times when things aren’t going well. We’re looking forward to an exciting season.’’