Jay Paris: Cubs are cursed but Kamon a blessing for Renteria

Doug Kamon usually gets what he wants.

When you’re San Dieguito Academy’s assistant principle and athletic director, it comes with the territory.

Then again, there was a time Kamon heard “no.”

“I couldn’t get him to come out for varsity football,’’ Kamon said.

“Him” is Rick Renteria. Despite stiff-arming Kamon years ago at South Gate High, Renteria landed on his feet.

And in the Cubs’ dugout as their manager.

“I’m a Chicago Cubs fan now,’’ Kamon said.

Renteria backed football back then; his dad, not so much.

A star shortstop for Kamon’s baseball team, Renteria briefly tried JV football. But one night at dinner, after the right-handed Renteria absorbed a punishing hit in practice, the proof was in how he handled his pudding.

“I was eating with my left arm,’’ Renteria said. “My dad didn’t know my mom had given me permission to play football.’’

Father knew best — football wasn’t Renteria’s bread-and-butter.

“Pops said, ‘you’re not playing football,’’’ Renteria said.

Renteria concentrated on baseball and they still talk about the 1980 CIF final at Dodger Stadium, when Renteria’s South Gate played Granada Hills. John Elway played for Granada Hills, but Renteria had the drive — three of them.

“Rickey hit three home runs,’’ Kamon said. “We won 22-20 in a slugfest.’’

One doesn’t have to twist Renteria’s arm when the subject is Kamon.

“He was a man who tried to get the best out of you, he pushed you, ‘’ said Renteria, a Padres coach for six seasons before landing this year in Chicago. “He made sure that you were going to give the best effort you could give on any given day.’’

Renteria’s upbringing came with challenges. It was a gritty neighborhood where he lived, with temptation around every corner.

But Renteria knew Kamon was in his corner, and we’re reminded again how prep coaches and teachers are role models.

“He always pulled for everybody to overcome whatever obstacles they may have,’’ said Renteria, a first-round pick by the Pirates. “Life is not easy; you are going to run into a lot of obstacles in your life.

“He told us to keep grinding, every single day, in whatever we did. In my situation, I really did have to push myself all the time and that played a big part in who I am.’’

Kamon’s journey took him to North County in 1986, first teaching and coaching at Mt. Carmel for 16 years. When La Costa Canyon opened, Kamon was there to make sure the athletic department got off on the right foot.

Now he’s at SDA, albeit with recollections from the stops along the way.

“I’ve been very, very blessed,’’ said Kamon, an Encinitas resident. “Everywhere I’ve been the man upstairs has led me there to do what I wanted to do: developing young people with a philosophy that building successful teams means you are building successful young people.’’

Renteria was among them. With his family bouncing back and forth from Mexico, Kamon was a foundation Renteria leaned on.

“Your coaches can impact you in a good or a bad way,’’ Renteria said. “Most times your coaches, hopefully, have your best interest at heart. I know coach Kamon did. He wanted to make sure you wouldn’t sell yourself short.

“For people playing a lot of sports, the biggest influence you have on a daily basis is your coaches. You spend a lot of time out there with them, and with teammates, and all the different scenarios that help you learn how to deal with life.

“Your biggest influence is going to be your family. But outside of that it’s your coaches and teachers that care for you, give you wisdom, knowledge and help you understand the outside world.’’

Grasping what Cubs fans want is easy: a world championship after last winning one in 1907.

“They are passionate,’’ Renteria said. “And we’re striving to give them a competitive team every day.’’

The Cubs again find themselves in last place, but the sunny Renteria is optimistic better days fill the horizon.

Someone in his rear-view mirror is confident that Renteria will shine.

“He’s done all the right things and is just a man of great character and integrity,’’ Kamon said. “I couldn’t imagine anyone being more ready than Rickey.’’

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.



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