CHICAGO -- Ilene Renteria and daughter Alexandria will make cookies and there will be the traditional holiday tamales at dinner, but one thing will be missing this Christmas in Cubs manager Rick Renteria's home in Temecula, Calif.
The Renteria's oldest son, Joseph, 35, serves in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Nicholas, and he's on duty over the holidays.
"He's tried [to come home]," Rick Renteria said Thursday of his son. "They just returned -- they're docked, but he's working through Christmas and I think he'll be on the ship."
The Renterias don't always know where Joseph is when he's on assignment.
"That's common," Renteria said of the secrecy in the Navy's missions. "I knew when he was deployed to Panama, and I knew when he was deployed to Africa in his last round. They've been out six weeks, maybe doing manuevers, and they just docked a couple days ago."
Joseph is the oldest of four children, and he wanted to join the service after graduating from high school but wasn't sure which branch.
"As a family, we had a discussion about joining the service, and it was something he really had to be committed to doing," Renteria said. "He held off and got through a few years at home, and ended up circling back and joined October 2008.
"I think it was a wise choice because you're much more prepared, your maturity level is obviously enhanced," he said. "He had done well. He's an [electrical technician, second class] right now and in his sixth year. My sense is he's going to re-enlist and stay in."
Joseph's duties revolve around the inner workings of the ship, and Renteria said his son can take apart and put together different components on the Nicholas.
On April 1, 2010, the ship came under fire from pirates while it was deployed in the waters off East Africa near the coast of Kenya and Somalia. The warship was conducting anti-piracy operations. Joseph was not part of the crew at that time but has been on board as a member of drug enforcement crews near Panama.
The Navy has been a good match for Joseph even if it means long stretches in which he doesn't see his family.
"In the sports world, and I guess all of us in any capacity, we always think about sacrifice and things of that nature, and I think we need to make sure to distinguish the difference between sacrifice and commitment," Renteria said. "In the same tone, sacrifice and commitment could be the same thing. In the real world, I think when we talk about sacrifice, we use that word quite loosely."
Joseph has obviously made both a sacrifice and a commitment.
Renteria said his wife Ilene is the glue that holds the family together. She stays in touch with her four children through email and text messages. Rick, who has spent more than 30 years in professional baseball, often on the road and away from home, said he welcomes the emails from his children.
"I've been very fortunate with my family," he said.
It's been a hectic offseason. Once the regular season ended, Renteria, who was the Padres' bench coach, underwent hip replacement surgery, and he was being interviewed for manager jobs while rehabbing at home. He was named the Cubs' 53rd manager in early November, but couldn't get to Wrigley Field for an introductory news conference until one month later because of his hip.
Then, Renteria spent a week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and just completed a weekend in Mesa, Ariz., with his new coaching staff. The topic for the Cubs' coaches is the same as it is for Renteria's family: Communicate.
"We all have to be on the same page," Renteria said of his message to the coaches. "When we come out of a room after discussions, we have to be looking at going in one direction. Everyone has a voice, and any discussions we have, once we have them, we need to stand firm. I think it's the only way you can totally be committed to moving a club in a particular direction.
"The players need to know that, one, we believe in their abilities, and, two, that we have an idea of how we want to proceed moving forward and everybody is totally on board and on the same page," he said.
That's a message that works in any profession.
Once Renteria catches his breath, he'll make sure there are gifts under the Christmas tree for sons Michael and Anthony and daughter Alexandria. Wednesday not only is Christmas, but also Rick Renteria's 52nd birthday. The family tends to focus on the meaning of the holiday, not the presents.
"As much as we do a lot of gift giving, I think the season itself is something we focus on a little more," Renteria said.
There will be thoughts of Joseph, too.
"He's always with us," Renteria said of his oldest son. "We're very aware of him. We're very proud of him. We're proud of all our kids, but we're very proud of him and we miss him, but he's always with us."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less