Pirates Notes: Huntington, Stark, Taillon

The Pirates fell below .500 when they lost to the Brewers last night, but that’s not why the team is making headlines today. Details surrounding some unusual player development practices have surfaced, generating surprise and criticism. Here are the details:

  • Pirates prospects spent this past weekend in Florida performing military drills directed by former Navy SEALS, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. General manager Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark implemented the program, which started at 5 am daily and included running along the beach with a telephone pole, flipping truck tires, and diving into sand piles. Earlier in the year Stark emailed his players, encouraging them to “Dream and be creative like a Hippie. Have the discipline and perseverance of a Boy Scout. Be crazy and take risks like the Hells Angels.”
  • Kovacevic calls the Pirates' actions inexplicable and indefensible.
  • Players dreaded the activities and team officials feared them, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports. MLB executives expressed skepticism about the program’s effectiveness. "I didn't like it,” one person told Passan. “Nobody did. They don't know what they're doing."
  • Top prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a non-serious knee injury during the program’s hand-to-hand combat component, Passan reports.
  • “Whispers are becoming louder” that Huntington’s job status isn’t completely secure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, an ownership source told Heyman the Pirates’ upper management really seems to like manager Clint Hurdle.


45 Responses to Pirates Notes: Huntington, Stark, Taillon Leave a Reply

  1. Hypothetically, if we were to go war, the Pirates organization will be one of our greatest threats? Of course, that begs the question; after the last 19 seasons, would we really want to rely on them to win us a war…?

    • indybucfan 3 years ago

      At least we’ve won the war before, guess the brewers could serve, well the brew???

  2. Let_My_Cameron_Go 3 years ago

    “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

    Sort of sums up the past twenty years of the Pirates franchise…

  3. Mike Mark Sopp 3 years ago

    Geez. Just when i thought the Pirates were heading in the right direction. Guessing Neal Huntington needs to get his resume together?

  4. schellis 3 years ago

    they are so going to be ready when baseball installs a obstacle course around the bases.

    That’s right Tim, ever since baseball instituted the tire flip down the first base line hits have gone way down.

  5. the_show 3 years ago

    Looks like the Pirates will be looking for a new GM

  6. johnsilver 3 years ago

    They don’t like Huntington? it might have taken a few years for his rebuild through the draft philosophy to take hold to iron heads in the organization, but if they think Huntington has done a bad job, maybe they should look at the 15 years under previous stewardship and see misery and mismanagement, then give Neil a raise and say “Thanks”.

  7. ima_robot_beepbeepbeep 3 years ago

    Just another reason for Minor League free agents, International players, and June draftees to avoid the Pirates at all costs. What a disaster.

  8. Roger Wilco 3 years ago

    It doesn’t really sound all that horrible to me. Except the hand-to-hand stuff…. or the rifle training if they’re doing that. Not really much point in those activities.

    • Slopeboy 3 years ago

      The rifle training was restricted to the pitchers and catchers only… That was for ‘picking off’ base runners.

  9. WeDontNeedToFinPracticeRANDY 3 years ago

    The good ole Kenny Powers Thunder Dome workout…Necessary? No. But progressive?

  10. davengmusic 3 years ago

    I kind of like the military drill idea. Getting players mentally and physically tough will bode well for them in a long season.

    That email is pretty atrocious, though. If his players have to do drills, Huntington needs to take a creative writing course at the local juco.

    • $1529282 3 years ago

      The risk that comes along with those drills is ludicrous. There’s nothing to like about that. There are other ways to make your players mentally and physically tough. That program is one of the most short-sighted, irresponsible things I’ve ever heard of an organization doing.

      And Huntington didn’t write the email Stark did.

      • davengmusic 3 years ago

        So you’d be content with the status quo. That doesn’t seem like such a hot way to run a perennial loser like Pitt. What would you do to instill the same values as military drills that the Pirates organization hasn’t already tried?

        • Slopeboy 3 years ago

          “What would you do to instill the same values as the military drills…?”
          Replace the entire infield with SEAL TEAM 6.

        • Matt Grieve 3 years ago

          Who cares if the minor league system has the “same values” if none of their prospects ever pan out. They have had high draft picks for decades and all they have to show for it is Andrew McCutchen

  11. Lunchbox45 3 years ago

    pretty sure this happens in other sports and its not that big of a deal.

  12. How about they work on “baseball drills”… The Pirates have all the time in the world for the beach cause we’re usually the first ones there come October.

  13. safari_punch 3 years ago

    Sounds like some program Alex Anthopolous would put the Blue Jays prospects through based on some made up sabermetric stat from Baseball Prospectus.

  14. Bucco Brigade 3 years ago

    It is well documented that numerous other teams in baseball, as well as other sports do drills like these. It’s mainly done as a team building exercise. Only reason why there is a reaction to this is becasuse it is the Pirates.

  15. Goat_Rider 3 years ago

    How is this so bad? SEAL style isometric training focuses on power, flexibility and balance. These seem like good things for a professional athlete.

    • Colin Christopher 3 years ago

      Agreed. It may be a little unorthodox, but I don’t really see what the big deal is about taking one weekend to try something different.

    • Goat_Rider 3 years ago

      And if you read this article, the author says (paraphrase) “ask anyone one in the military and they will tell you what they do is very far off from sports”. BS. As a veteran and a person who played ball in college, those are the two most SIMILAR things I have ever done.

    • jacks100 3 years ago

      Well Goat_Rider, when your top pitching prospect gets hurt because of the “program’s hand-to-hand combat component”… its bad.

      • christopher siciliano 3 years ago

        Didn’t tiger woods get hurt the same way?

    • $21621694 3 years ago

      Had this article come out back in july it would have read “unorthodox player development practices put players on the board!!” They did the same kind of training last year and they have been doing it for the past few years. In my opinion is a different way to do things that could turn out interesting. We’ll see in the future. The article exaggerates the magnitude of the situation. No they do not get sprayed with high pressure hoses

  16. cookmeister 3 years ago

    I kind of like the military drills idea, at least i don’t mind it. I remember watching the high school Elite 11 competition (basically the top HS QB’s at a camp) and they had to do some of these things. Seemed to bring them together and create some mental toughness. Only thing that i worry about is making these kinds of things mandatory, with the risk of injury and all that in question.

    • Slopeboy 3 years ago

      High School competition and the Pirates.There’s a bit of symmetry there.

  17. Slopeboy 3 years ago

    Would have preferred they did ninja training… This way they might be able to sneak up in the standings?

  18. Guest 3 years ago

    If I was a top prospect, Jameson Taillion type, I would’ve been AWOL for this absurdity. What would they have done – release him? If they would’ve imposed any penalty, I’m sure the union would’ve went to bat for him (even though he isn’t on the 40 man) being the training had no relevance for a baseball player.

    • Colin Christopher 3 years ago

      The union doesn’t represent minor league players, so I seriously doubt they’d go to bat for one who refused to report to a team-mandated training session.

  19. rainyperez 3 years ago

    Seriously when I read what prospects went through I thought it could be an Onion article. But then…seriously? I can’t even…

    Anyway what’s the Vegas line on who wins in a Pirates bench clearing fight now?

  20. formerdraftpick 3 years ago

    How can you not like Clint Hurdle?!? If you ever spent 5 minutes with the man, it would lead to 5 minutes in your life you would never forget.

    • i’d love to meet u sometime,finally meet the legend. he’s a likeable guy but he’s had one winning season as a manager,time to go…..

  21. $21621694 3 years ago

    Had this article come out back in july it would have read “unorthodox
    player development practices put players on the board!!” They did the
    same kind of training last year and they have been doing it for the past
    few years. In my opinion is a different way to do things that could
    turn out interesting. We’ll see in the future. The article exaggerates
    the magnitude of the situation. No they do not get sprayed with high
    pressure hoses

  22. Rob 3 years ago

    I think we should bring in Patches O’Houlihan for some after season training.
    Because, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!!!!

  23. baseball1010 3 years ago

    There are enough injuries in baseball without doing self defense and carrying a telephone pole on the beach. If a player got hurt playing flag football they would cancel his contract. Kyle, Neal if you want to join the military I can help. You guys think you own these players you don’t.

  24. formerdraftpick 3 years ago

    Are the Pirates supposed to be the Washington Generals of the baseball world?

  25. Bob Sacamento 3 years ago

    I live down here in the Bradenton/Sarasota area, and got to witness these “exercises” first hand. All I have to say is someone is going to get hurt and hurt bad one of these times. Tire flipping, rope pulling that’s okay but when you get to hand-to-hand combat drills that helps no one on the ballfield.

  26. bigpat 3 years ago

    Don’t let your pitchers throw more than 6 innings but put them through military training? Seems legit.

  27. djb 3 years ago

    humble suggestion to all: look at the year toyear results that Huntington has produced with little to no budget. The issues are ownership and financial constraints. The problem in Pittsburgh has been in the organization for years and Neal has been able to turn around the club in spite of it. The city should appreciate what he is building and say thank you.

  28. ed27 3 years ago

    Absolutely crazy. That type of training has nothing to do with baseball and is just another “fad” in the world of sports performance. Obviously, the men in the Navy Seals and other Special Forces need to go above and beyond in their training but all that the type of work recommended by the Pirate front office will do is result in over training and injury. In a sport where people worry about (and rightfully so) how many innings a year young pitchers throw as they begin their pro careers I can’t believe people at the top can be so ignorant as to institute a program that will do little to develop baseball talent.

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