So Who Is Pittsburgh Pirates Assistant GM Kyle Stark?

Kyle Stark.  You’ve heard the name, but who is this guy that wanted to be a GM since he was a ten year old boy?

He was a standout volleyball player.

He graduated with a 4.0 from Ball State.

He is a lawyer, and passed the bar exam on the first try.

Stark did an internship with the Cleveland Indians.

He was hired in research and given the task of determining why the success of the Indians bullpen fluctuated each season.

Stark met Pirates GM Neal Huntington in Cleveland.

When Huntington got hired in Pittsburgh, he called Stark and offered him a job.

Stark is now the Assistant GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Under Huntington, the Pirates have talked about three initiatives in their system.  Since September of 2007, it’s been cohesiveness, accountability and consistency.  The Bucs minor league system was a mess.  Now five years later, most of the coaches are different, the drills have names, the players all wear their uniforms the same way,  and the minor league system has produced championships.

 

Some quotes from Stark:

PG:  “Our whole philosophy here is to build on growth, as a guy, as a man,”  Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark said. “That usually only happens  through adversity, whether being challenged on the field, being challenged off  the field, sometimes self-imposed, unfortunately.”

YouTube:   ”Our minor league system is different from other (minor league systems) because, uhhh…we need our minor league system.”

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Back in March of 2011, Charlie Wilmoth had an interview with Kyle Stark, part one and part two:

 

Charlie Wilmoth:  You’ve emphasized fastball command, and that’s been talked about a lot. But what exactly does that mean in terms of the percentage of pitches somebody throws? Is this something you emphasize more with the more big-time prospects and are less concerned about with guys who might be relievers in the minors, and that kind of thing?

Kyle Stark:

When we talk about fastball command, there’s an ideal, in terms of building a … Part of our system is based on taking a young high school pitcher and turning him into a front-of-the-rotation starter, and there’s ideals that go along with that. Fastball command, in that world, is the ability to command your fastball to all four quadrants of the zone.

Individually, though, fastball command for one guy may be different than for another guy. SInkerballers won’t be command[ing] to all four quadrants of the zone, it’s going to be down in the zone. So it depends on the guy … Part of that is guys throwing it – you’ve got to force guys to throw it. Everybody talks about fastball command. We’re not the only organization [that's concerned about that].

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RumBunter:  Ummm….yeh, everybody talks about fast ball command because it’s such a focus in the Pirates system.  Things that are deemed mantras by a fans favorite team are talked about Mr. Stark, it’s just how it works when a team has a passionate fan base.  It seems that he’s bothered when he states those last two sentences and shit like that always amuses me.

Who freaking cares what the media talk about?    Who cares what the bloggers talk about?  It’s just fascinating those two sentences would ever come out of Stark’s mouth.

Fastball command is vital to the success of a Major League pitcher, but perhaps it’s stressed too much when developing million dollar “arms” as Stark calls them later in the interview. 

We find it interesting that in the interview Charlie had to clarify what players Stark was talking about as the Bucs Assistant GM simply called them ‘arms.’ 

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In another interesting post, Stark’s character is also discussed on the Tribune Review blog of Dejan Kovacevic.  Be sure to read this article recapping things written on a Trib–Review blog.  The story is written by Pete Dombrosky…surely it wasn’t Bill Virdon who Kyle Stark offended.  God forbid if that’s the case.  [UPDATE:  read the comments below, it was not Bill Virdon, it was a younger player]

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From the BucsDugout interview, we show an example of the Pirates missing on two catching prospects.  Look it happens everyday, this is just an example of the thinking behind prospect development.  Remember that the article was written in March of 2011, so it’s interesting to think how 10th round pick Joey Schoenfeld was essentially written off.

Can you talk about Joey Schoenfeld and Elias Diaz and how you balanced playing time between them last year, and what you plan to do this year?

One of the core decisions you have to make in development is who’s going to get the opportunities. And obviously we decided that Elias Diaz deserves more time than Joey. I would fully expect that to continue.

Is that a defensive thing?

It’s both sides. I know that Elias struggled at the plate last year, but we feel that there’s potential there for him to hit. There’s potential there for him to be a good player on both sides of the ball … the guy with the higher upside typically gets the opportunity.

That’s interesting, [since] Schoenfeld is a 10th-round draft pick.

Everybody talks about some of the things we talk about in terms of scouting and development being aligned. I’ve had a really good relationship with our scouting director and a really good relationship with our international scouts, [but] as guys come into the system, that database just continues, and so it’s not a matter of, well, Schoenfeld is a 10th-round pick and Diaz got x number of dollars, it wasn’t that much. We just talk about abilities and how we got to that point, and where do we go from here.

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We notice again how Stark mentions ‘everybody talks about…’ 

Again, we say Mr. Stark, it doesn’t matter what we talk about. 

Let’s fast forward to the present day.  Schoenfeld struggled throwing out runners while Diaz excelled at a 41 percent rate.  Schoenfeld signed out of high school for $195,000.  He was released in July of last year, just a few months after the article ran on BucsDugout. 

Stark who said that he felt Diaz had the potential to hit, has never hit.  He was awful  to start the 2012 season hitting .138 in his  first two months while repeating at West Virginia. 

It’s just another reminder of the organization missing on talent, so for everyone that talks about the utter  failure by Stetson Allie as a pitcher or the multitude of millions pissed down the toilet on hideous free agent signings in recent years, remember there are $195,000 dollar misses distributed throughout the recent drafts. 

All of this must be accounted for by someone.  The 2009 draft featured million dollar selections.  Looking at how those 2009 selections performed this season, in what we called a crucial development year, it’s disappointing.   Big time. 

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Tonight, Dejan released this June 28 email from Stark addressing what the team needed to do in the second half.

“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.”

Yeah, those Hells Angels.

“We must get out of our comfort  zones and flex our own Hells Angel muscle. We  must be extreme in our  commitment to these ideas. This is ultimately about  developing a  mentality and a culture where this becomes our identity. A culture  of  risk and less control is unsettling for us control freaks!”

What.  In.  The.  World.

Look, I’ve been apart of some crazy shit in my life.  Worked for some wild bosses.  Spent ten years in the military.  I got no idea what hippies, Boy Scouts, or Hell Angels have to do with baseball.

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In a fluff article written back in July, the St. Bonaventure baseball coach Larry Sudbrook had this to say:

“I firmly believe that if Pittsburgh continues on for the rest of this season and plays as well as it has,” Sudbrook said. “I don’t think they have to win the division or win in the postseason., but if they can just end their 19-year streak of losing seasons, people will sit up and take notice.

“It may not be a New York, Boston or Los Angeles team that calls, but somebody like Milwaukee, Kansas City or Cleveland could call Stark and offer him a GM postion.

“And he will have one of those 30 jobs that we talked about when he was 10 years old.”

Let’s make a bet on that Mr. Sudbrook.  We say there isn’t a chance in hell that happens.

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  • richiehebner

    Tom, thanks for this great piece . At Cocktails’ kind suggestion, in our conversation over at Bucs Dugout, I wanted to introduce myself. I post as richiehebner over at BD, and I am the BarryVonBonilla to whom Pete Dombrowsky referred to in his piece, referenced above.

    Just to reassure you and anybody who read this and wondered if the player involved was Bill Virdon, he most certainly is not (thank goodness!). Nor was it Maz. Both are happily retired and are just fine limiting themselves to spring training.

    Reading my post, I can easily see how Pete might have concluded it was Virdon, from the reference to the dugout appearances by Virdon and Maz.

    The two players I noted are younger and Coonelly refers all inquiries about jobs from former players (and others) to Kyle Stark.

    Finally, and most important, that was an excellent piece of work, as are the very interesting podcasts and your other features. RumBunter is required reading for me!

    • http://twitter.com/rumbunter rumbunter

      Nice to know man, thanks for the clarification. I will update.