Chef Renteria cooks up winning ingredients

White Sox manager whips up meal, advises students to dream big

Chef Renteria cooks up winning ingredients

CHICAGO -- Being a good chef features some of the same ingredients as being a good manager for Rick Renteria.

Take a little from Column A, take a little from Column B, mix together and create a masterpiece.

Renteria's passion for cooking was on display Wednesday morning as he visited Benito Juarez Community Academy in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago a few days before this weekend's SoxFest. The White Sox manager whipped up a quick version of Queso Fundido with the Juarez baseball team and culinary students, but his natural teaching instincts also took over with the young students.

"More than anything, just encourage them," said Renteria of his message to the students. "There are certain things they can't control and there are things they can control. I was speaking to someone earlier today that was presented to me that was a dreamer, getting ready to graduate. And I don't think that they can consume themselves in a lot of the things that are being put out there.

"All of us have to come together a little bit and try to keep some perspective and some balance in how we approach everything we are doing. So I hope that I was just able to encourage them and show them that they are OK, they will be all right."

Questions from the students dealt in part with Renteria's goals when he was their age and what he wanted to do with his life. Baseball was all he dreamed about, and Renteria made the Majors as a player, coach and the rare manager who has worked on both sides of Chicago.

Baseball became Renteria's passion. It's the same sort of passion Renteria hopes the Juarez students find.

"It's always really emotional when you have kids that without even knowing you, they seemingly are supporting you and your team, kids that have obviously come from very similar backgrounds as myself," Renteria said. "It's nice to be able to come out here and encourage them a little bit.

"[I] let them know that anything is possible, but you have to push, you have to fight and you have to not give up. Honestly, maybe that's why I'm still here."

When Spring Training begins, Renteria plans to cook for his coaches just as he did last year. He wasn't quite satisfied with Thursday's creation, but the students enjoyed his visit and his cuisine.

"Then I wonder what his best tastes like," said diehard White Sox fan Jennifer Orozco, a senior at Juarez in the culinary program, along with serving as a T-ball coach. "It was amazing. Oh my God, I can't even explain it. The cheese was so gooey and the meat was cooked perfectly.

"This was really exciting, a dream come true. I've always wanted to meet someone from the White Sox. It was actually very interesting because you think that a coach like that is more focused on other things like business. You see he has a favorite pastime like you do, and you could connect to them in some way."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.