Parent settling into new role as bench coach
Challenge of position intrigued former Minor League manager
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Those who were surprised by Robin Ventura's selection of Mark Parent as bench coach, as opposed to someone with more Major League experience, actually included Parent.
"I thought he was just getting advice on whether he should take the job or not," said a smiling Parent, speaking to MLB.com at the White Sox Camelback Ranch complex. "Seriously. I think the last time I saw him was probably at a charity concert for Garth Brooks that he put on.
"Then, I thought he was kind of joking. You figure a guy who has played that long and has played with enough people and lives in Los Angeles and has a lot of friends ... . He's a very nice guy and has a lot of people who like him: Older coaches, managers who he's had would certainly like to help him out.
"So, we never really have got into just how it happened," Parent said. "Fortunately for me it did. I've been enjoying myself and that's big when you can be in Major League Baseball and enjoy yourself."
To label Parent simply as Ventura's enforcer overlooks the vast baseball acumen this man who excelled as a Minor League manager brings to the table. White Sox players have responded in a unified positive spirit to Ventura's first Spring Training, run efficiently, smoothly and with a purpose. The White Sox staff has tried to get the best from players, handling mistakes at the moment they happen to make sure they don't reoccur.
A large part of that credit goes to Parent, who explains how the process of putting together this first Spring Training came together. He started about two weeks after the October hire, trying to get Ventura's thoughts on paper.
Then, he added in his thoughts, had Ventura review them and started going through the particulars: How did Ventura want to run his bunt plays and matters of that nature?
"You write them out, then you throw them away and write them out again," said Parent. "You start to think about the signs and what sign would you like to see, what sign is easy for everyone throughout the organization.
"Finally, you get up enough nerve to say, 'This is it,' and you send it out. That's something for a baseball player, that's what you don't do. You don't write stuff."
Fortunately for the White Sox, Parent had a bit of prior writing and organizational experience. He worked on the catching section in the book "Play Baseball The Ripken Way," an instructional manual for kids, and put his thoughts down on paper for that project done with the Ripken family. Parent also had the chance to read thorough manuscripts from Cal Ripken Sr. on how to play different positions and coach them as well.
"He certainly covered everything, as Cal Sr. would," Parent said.
"So, I think it just took all of the offseason really," continued Parent on Spring Training planning. "Two or three weeks before the offseason was over, I was just ready to go. I had nothing else to do. I had already been working. So it was kind of like I can't go on vacation right now. Or can I? So, I probably should have. But it has been really good."
Serving as the bench coach means Parent doesn't have to deal with the daily media sessions which are part of Ventura's job, leaving him free to work directly with the catchers. His regular-season job involves, in part, going through and processing the large amount of scouting and sabermetric material available to the team and giving Ventura exactly what he needs in regard to game situations.
This jump to the Majors has been exciting for Parent, who welcomed a change after posting a 158-113 record managing the past two years in the Phillies' system.
"Managing for me got to be, at the Minor league level, sort of like old hat," Parent said. "I knew this job was going to be challenging. I watched a lot of bench coaches and certainly a lot of managers in the big leagues. And coaches and pitching coaches. I saw how they did things and how they stayed organized or what not.
"I'm still not at that level organization-wise I would like to be. But seriously, at 50 years old, you get to be in baseball and be challenged, and you don't have to go physically do stuff. It's pretty cool.
"You can get stagnant," Parent said. "You can start to fall away from the game a little bit. This is where it all happens. I mean, you gotta win. So, that's great. It just challenges you more."
As for that enforcer part of Parent's job, he made it clear back at SoxFest that clubhouse business will stay in the clubhouse. The White Sox have had almost daily 9 a.m. meetings during Spring Training, at which time players are welcome to vent if they have questions or concerns.
There's also plenty of old school in Parent, starting with what the manager says is what goes with the team. And Ventura has picked a good man to help make that point clear.
"Everybody is trying to figure out the six degrees of separation," said Ventura of Parent. "But I really have known him a long time and have a lot of respect for him personally and baseball-wise and just the way he does business.
"Knowing the position I'm in, I looked at maybe spots I'm weaker at, doing catching stuff and things like that. I want the energy that he brings as a person, with the same as [third-base coach] Joe McEwing as a person and [hitting coach] Jeff Manto. All those different things that I've always admired in staffs I've been on, he fit what I wanted."