White Sox's Ventura has NY state of mind

Manager Robin Ventura #23 of the Chicago White Manager Robin Ventura #23 of the Chicago White Sox poses during spring training photo day on March 3, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (March 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The home uniform pinstripes are black, not the royal blue he wore when with the Mets or the navy blue with the Yankees. Robin Ventura is manager of the White Sox, but the lessons of New York still are a part of him.

Ventura, now 44, played home games at Shea Stadium under Bobby Valentine and at Yankee Stadium under Joe Torre. Then he became the surprise pick to replace Ozzie Guillen. He had been a fan favorite in 10 years with the White Sox but hadn't managed or coached in organized baseball.

Since leaving the Dodgers after the 2004 season, Ventura had done only TV commentary and coached a high school team in central California, where he grew up.

What Ventura already has shown during spring training at Camelback Ranch is a direction that impressed veteran Adam Dunn. "He's going to be great," Dunn told the Chicago Sun Times. "The good thing is he's not far removed from being a player. He can relate to us."

Ventura will make his managerial debut April 6 against the Rangers, a team run by his former nemesis, Nolan Ryan.

On April 26, his team will play host to the Red Sox and Valentine, the man from whom he says he gained much of his baseball knowledge.

Valentine was in charge of the Mets in 1999 when former All-Star third baseman Ventura signed on as a free agent and joined Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordoñez and John Olerud as part of what Sports Illustrated called "the best infield ever."

On May 20, he became the first player ever to hit a grand slam in each game of a doubleheader.

And who will forget his "grand-slam single" in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves at Shea Stadium?

With the bases loaded in the 15th inning and the Mets trailing 3-2, he hit a 2-and-1 pitch that cleared the wall. Roger Cedeño scored the winning run and Ventura rounded first, but after Todd Pratt, the runner on first, touched second, he picked up Ventura in celebration. Because Ventura never reached second, the hit was scored as a single.

And now Ventura is a manager, a leader of men.

"I had a lot of respect for Bobby," Ventura said. "I don't know if I can pinpoint anything specifically, but he's one of the smartest baseball guys I've been around.

"I believe in the same things. You kind of adopt the philosophy of the men you play for.''

Ventura was traded to the Yankees before the 2002 season and played a year and a half for Torre.

"Joe Torre was more laid- back than Bobby, but he was a presence,'' he said. "You knew what was expected."

Nobody could have known what to expect when on Aug. 4, 1997, the Rangers' Ryan threw a fastball at Ventura's rib cage. Ventura charged the mound, Ryan put him in a headlock with his left arm, and, as seen in a much-watched video, pounded him with his right hand.

Good chance Ventura will be reminded about that in Texas. Said Rangers entertainment head Chuck Morgan, "I'm sure we'll show [the video] Opening Day."

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