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White Sox manager Robin Ventura a family man first

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Updated: June 13, 2013 11:36PM



This was the text message Stephanie Ventura didn’t expect: ‘‘They want me to manage.’’

It was from her husband — sent from a men’s room, no less — while Robin Ventura was taking a short break from a meeting with then-White Sox general manager Ken Williams.

The tempestuous Ozzie Guillen era was over, and Williams wanted a calm, steady and capable presence to manage his team in 2012 and beyond. Stephanie’s reaction to this under-the-radar choice was like everyone else’s.

‘‘I was shocked,’’ she said. ‘‘We were both shocked. We thought maybe they were going to tell him he wasn’t doing a good-enough job at the roving instruction they had hired him to do or that they wanted him to put in a little more time.’’

After all, Ventura had no managerial experience at any level. But after Stephanie let it sink in, the choice made sense to someone who has known Ventura since she was a teenager and who knows him better than anyone.

‘‘I was certainly proud of him,’’ she said. ‘‘It was nice to see that other people saw the great qualities in him that I’ve always recognized.’’

Such as?

‘‘The first thing that comes to mind is he’s selfless,’’ Stephanie said. ‘‘He puts others first, especially when it comes to our family. It’s always about what’s best for us and not necessarily for him. He’s real. He’s honest. He’s true to himself.

‘‘People are always looking for an angle about who he is, and he truly is ‘what you see is what you get.’ He’s as kind as he appears. He doesn’t put on an air for anybody. He’s a great dad and an amazing husband. That’s my unbiased
opinion.’’

Ventura is a family man, first and foremost. As mixed as his feelings were about leaving a relaxed family life after his playing days to manage, so were his feelings conflicted about leaving the Sox last week to attend the high school graduation of daughter Grace, the second-youngest of their four kids. He didn’t like being gone while the ship was sinking. But Ventura is a family-first guy, and he took two days to celebrate a big event. This Sunday is Father’s Day, so Stephanie, Grace and son Jack will go to Houston with him.

‘‘Of course,’’ Stephanie said.

Because of a perception that he took the job as a favor to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, his employer when he played for the Sox from 1989 to 1998, and because he declined to sign an extension to his three-year contract this spring, Ventura had to answer questions about his
devotion to the job in the context of being in last place after enjoying 117 days in first place last season.

‘‘We’ve talked about that, and he loves it just as much this year as he did last year,’’ Stephanie said.

Ventura was third in voting for American League manager of the year last season. This year, he’s ­going to the All-Star Game in New York as a coach, it was announced Thursday.

‘‘He’s extremely happy in his job,’’ Stephanie said. ‘‘People who know Robin really well understand why he didn’t do an
extension. It had nothing to do with commitment and level of passion. He has always been an advocate of honoring a contract and playing out that contract. ‘At the end of three years, I don’t want you to be unhappy with me and you have to honor this contract. And vice versa if I’m not.’ ’’

A long-term commitment doesn’t seem likely, but it isn’t out of the question, either.

‘‘It is a possible scenario,’’ Stephanie said. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s something he’ll want to do forever. Life can throw you a lot of curveballs. You never know what might come up. We have a son starting high school. There’s some give-and-take for anybody in life, so you have to weigh the pros and cons. But as of today, yeah, absolutely. He’s happy. It’s working well for our family. The kids are enjoying it. We love the city of Chicago. But who knows what happens in a couple of years?’’



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