CHICAGO (AP) — Rick Renteria stood next to Chicago Cubs executives Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein and pulled on a No. 16 jersey in a lounge at Wrigley Field.
Yup, it's definitely real now. There's a new man in the dugout for the downtrodden Cubs.
Renteria got his official welcome Thursday for his first job as a major league manager about a month after he was hired to replace Dale Sveum. The appearance at the Cubs' iconic neighborhood ballpark was delayed by Renteria's recovery from October hip surgery.
"Physically, I feel great," he said. "It's a little over two months since the surgery and it went well and the rehab went extremely well and now just trying to get back to normal."
Renteria is going to need all his strength. He has quite the job ahead of him with the rebuilding Cubs.
Sveum was fired after Chicago went 66-96 in 2013 and finished last in the competitive NL Central. It lost 101 games in Sveum's first season on the bench, and hasn't finished with a winning record since it went 83-78 under Lou Piniella in 2009.
Of course, there's also that whole no-World-Series-title-since-1908 thing.
Renteria isn't hiding from the Cubs' woeful history. But that's all it is to him, there's nothing he can do about it.
"I don't think in terms of the past other than understanding where the organization's been," he said. "My attitude is constantly to move forward."
Renteria played second and third base for parts of five seasons in the majors. He then became a minor league coach in the Marlins' system and spent the past six years on the Padres' staff, including serving as Bud Black's bench coach since 2011.
Renteria, who turns 52 on Christmas Day, also managed Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Asked about his mentors, Renteria mentioned famous managers Jim Leyland, Dick Williams and Rene Lachemann. But he also shed some light on his personality with his glowing praise of little-known Johnny Lipon.
"Johnny was my A-ball manager and I had the best year I've ever had in my career," Renteria said. "Most positive individual I've ever seen. And you think about that, you know here's a guy who was a shortstop for the Detroit Tigers in a different era, an infielder, and his demeanor was one that kept you moving forward.