Pirates to hire Indians scout as GM
CHICAGO -- The Pirates will name Neal Huntington, currently an advance scout with the Cleveland Indians, as their new general manager, probably on Tuesday, sources said yesterday.
"He's going to get the job,'' said one industry source. Another described him as "bright" and "a very good evaluator" of talent.
Mr. Huntington, 37, was Cleveland's assistant minor league director -- under current Pirates interim general manager Brian Graham -- in 1998. He became the Indians' minor league director in November 1998, then was named assistant general manager in November 2001.
In addition to his scouting, Mr. Huntington also is helping to plan the Indians' new spring training complex near Phoenix.
New Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement yesterday that "It is too early to comment on possible candidates for our general manager position. We have had numerous interviews with multiple candidates, all of which would make for an excellent choice.
"As I have stated in the past, this is an extremely critical hire. It is important that we find the right person for the general manager position who can move our baseball operations forward."
Mr. Huntington did not return phone calls or emails requesting comment.
Because Mr. Huntington worked under Mr. Graham in Cleveland, he could make Mr. Graham his assistant GM. Mr. Graham has been the Pirates' director of player personnel for six years.
Early in the process, the Pirates were believed to be interested in Chris Antonetti, assistant to Indian general manager Mark Shapiro. It's conceivable Mr. Shapiro told Mr. Coonelly he didn't want to lose Mr. Antonetti, who did not interview with the Pirates, and supported Mr. Huntington.
A source yesterday summed up Mr. Huntington: "He seems to fit the profile of what they want. He has a great work ethic. He has integrity. He's a very, very good guy. He's bright. He has real good people skills. And he's a very good evaluator [of talent].''
Another person called him: "Very detail oriented.''
Mr. Huntington graduated from Amherst College in 1991 with a degree in psychology. He played four years of baseball there and was named the Division III 2nd team All-American first baseman and the 1st team All New England first baseman after his senior season, according to the Cleveland Indians media guide. He also has a Masters of Science degree in sport management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The Pirates are believed to have also interviewed Tony Bernazard, the New York Mets' vice-president for player development; Oakmont resident Tony LaCava, Toronto's director of player development; and New Castle's Jack Zduriencik, special assistant to the general manager and scouting director for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mr. Huntington would replace Dave Littlefield, who was fired earlier this month after overseeing baseball operation for the last seven of the Pirates' 15 consecutive losing seasons.