Neal Huntington grew up on a family dairy farm in New Hampshire, so he knows all about hard work.

“I learned very quickly about discipline, about fulfillment, about work ethic and passion for what you do,” he said. “I feel like it’s not only carried into my professional life, but into my personal life as well.”

Huntington brings that same work ethic and passion to his latest jobs – senior vice president and general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And he’ll likely need all of it to turn around a franchise that is mired in a string of 15 consecutive losing seasons.

He’s already impressed new Pirates President Frank Coonelly since joining the Pirates on Sept. 25.

“I have been extraordinarily impressed with the job that Neal has done,” Coonelly said. “He’s working tirelessly to make the Pittsburgh Pirates a winner again.”

Huntington’s task is not an easy one. Not only did the Pirates go 68-94 last season, but their farm system has not been nearly as productive as the organization that he left to take the Pittsburgh job. In Cleveland, where Huntington served as a special assistant to the general manager, the minor leagues regularly produced quality major leaguers. Huntington is trying to upgrade the Pirates’ system to do the same.

“Our focus is to put together a championship-caliber organization that allows us to compete year in and year out,” he said. “The only way to do that is to have a consistent flow of quality, elite major league talent through our minor-league system. The only way to do that is to scout, evaluate, sign the right talent and then develop that talent. That’s what we’ve been focusing our energies on at this time.”

Of course, Huntington is trying to find the balance between winning now and winning consistently.

“It’s the most difficult element of running a major league baseball organization – short term/long term,” he said. “Hopefully, most every decision we make will be for the long-term benefit of this organization. (But) they’ll have short-term repercussions.”

To restock the minor league system, the Pirates might have to trade away some of their major league talent. There are not many players at the major league level that can be traded away for top prospects. The most tradable players are the ones Huntington is least likely to deal – young starting pitchers Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke.

Huntington’s predecessor, Dave Littlefield, tried unsuccessfully to trade shortstop Jack Wilson last season. Outfielder Jason Bay could also be on the trading block, but he is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer and probably wouldn’t bring as much in return as he would have a year ago.

That doesn’t mean that Huntington won’t eventually pull the trigger on a deal for one or more of his veterans.

“We’ve said from the very first day, there is going to come a point in time when we have to make very difficult, if not unpopular, decisions,” he said. “Those are the type of decisions we have to make. When the right player wants to stay in Pittsburgh, and we want that player to stay in Pittsburgh through his free agent years, we believe we’re going to have the resources to do that. But there will come a point in time when we do trade a veteran player for a couple of young players to help us restock our farm system, to help us plug a hole, to try to continually to fold in young talent so that we’ve got some balance to our payroll, which is a necessity in our market.”

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