South side story: Ventura lands dream job

South side story: Ventura lands dream job

CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura never thought the White Sox managerial job he now holds would come open any time in the near future.

Ozzie Guillen, his good friend and his stellar infield mate on the South Side of Chicago from 1989-97, seemed to have a lock on that particular job for the foreseeable future.

"After what went down with Ozzie, the whole thing surprised me as much as anyone," said Ventura during a Thursday evening conference call to announce the 44-year-old as the 39th manager in franchise history, after the two sides agreed to a multiyear deal. "I figured he would manage here for a long time.

"Once that took place, the whole thing of Ozzie going to Miami, it took me back. I was not expecting that conversation when we had it. Coaching was more along the lines of what was going to happen and coming back in the organization this last year.

"Where that was going to go, I couldn't tell you then and I probably couldn't have told you two weeks ago," Ventura said. "Things progressed fairly quickly once Ozzie was not the manager."

Ventura just started officially working with the White Sox in June, serving as a special advisor to the director of player development Buddy Bell. But Ventura has made in-season visits to the White Sox, especially when the team made a trip out west, so the players certainly are not foreign to the low-key but engaging Ventura.

In fact, some have played against the Gold Glover and All-Star. But the one constant about Ventura, the devoted family man, is during those visits, he never expressed an inclination to work full-time as a coach with the White Sox, let alone as their man in charge.

When the offer was first posed to him by general manager Ken Williams and Bell, Ventura admitted that it turned his family "upside down" upon talking to his wife Stephanie about the opportunity.

"Having a day or two to think about it and peel away the initial reaction, I think there's a challenge there," Ventura said. "I do have a passion for this team, and I do have a passion for this city. I'm not really one to back away from a lot of things if I feel [convinced] about doing it.

"I was asked to do it. I have a passion to do it. It will be an honor to be able to have this opportunity to do it."

Pitching coach Don Cooper already is in place for the next four years, while first-base coach Harold Baines, bullpen coach Juan Nieves and bullpen catcher Mark Salas also will be returning and lending their expertise to Ventura's first year. The White Sox have asked permission to talk with a potential bench coach candidate currently working for another team, as suggested by Ventura, and Ventura also will have to bring on a third-base coach and a hitting coach.

A veteran staff would seem to be important around the inexperienced Ventura. Support from the entire White Sox family, of which Ventura and his family are considered a valued member, also influenced the final decision.

"They want the team to win as much as anyone else, but they also really care about me and my family," Ventura said. "That was a big factor in my decision in being able to do this. I'm in a place where I will have as much support as any organization. This is the one to give me that support to grow and do the job."

"We would have preferred to allow him to spend more time in that role [with Bell], to grow and develop," Williams said. "This came up, the need for him at this particular time with the current roster and future roster, and he's the guy we have to have."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.