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Mar 21

SLO County’s Ocean views couldn’t sway Sox manager Robin Ventura

Several Former Chicago Pro Athletes Now Living in SLO County

When most people heard that Robin Ventura had been named the new manager of the White Sox, they were surprised the former third baseman had even been offered the job, given his complete lack of coaching experience. But, according to last week’s “Sports Illustrated,” White Sox execs weren’t sure Ventura would even accept – because it would take time away from beautiful San Luis Obispo County.

Ventura, originally from Santa Maria, had been quietly spending his retirement in Arroyo Grande, occasionally helping the high school baseball team there, when Sox general manager Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf flew into San Luis Obispo to talk to Ventura about the skipper job.

“We went up a mountain and got to the house, which had a fabulous view,” Reinsdorf told SI. “I was somewhat confident that he’d take the job until I saw his house.”

According to the story, Williams looked out over a valley and out to the ocean, then turned to Ventura and asked, “Now why the hell would you want to come to Chicago?”

Ventura, who had considered coaching, happily accepted, meaning he will spend less time on the Central Coast. But his hiring did give A.G. High some more national attention (A.G. baseball coach Brad Lachemann and athletic director Dwight MacDonald were quoted in the story.)

It didn’t say if Reinsdorf, who also owns the Chicago Bulls, had visited Horace Grant while in Arroyo Grande. Grant, like Ventura, is one of a few former Chicago pro athletes living on the Central Coast. In addition to those two, there’s Mike Krukow and Ted Lilly, both former Cubs pitchers.

Of course, I’m a little biased, having been born a Chicagoan. Because I could have noted that all those guys were former California players – Ventura a former Dodger, Grant a former Laker, Krukow a former Giant (and now a Giants broadcaster) and Lilly a current Dodger. But I prefer to think of them as Sox, Cubs and Bulls.

All four players, interestingly, are former all-stars. While Ventura had many good seasons with the Sox, his best was with the Mets in 1999 when he hit .301 with 32 homers and 120 RBI. Lilly’s best season was with the Cubs, when he went 17-9 in 2008. Krukow did okay as a Cub, but his breakout year was with the Giants in 1986, when he went 20-9. And Grant – who enjoyed three championships with the Bulls – had his best season in 1993-4 when he averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game with the Bulls.

Now that Reinsdorf has let the cat out of the bag about how great San Luis Obispo is, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before more former Chicago players arrive.

Someone should probably tell Michael Jordan about the golf course in Avila.

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