by Jim Riggs
Marlins Quite A Catch For Lunetta
"There was nothing," he said. There wasn't even a file folder."
But expansion teams, like Rome - aren't built in a day. And, besides, he now has file folders, along with plenty of young, aggressive front office colleagues, who are eagerly putting the pieces of the puzzle together as the Marlins prepare for their major league debut in 1993.
"I don't think I've felt this kind of excitement and this energy level since I had my first opportunity to work at the major league level," the 36-year-old Jamestown native said Thursday night from his Fort Lauderdale home.
That was back in the fall of 1985 when he was named director of team travel for the Montreal Expos. Since then, his baseball odyssey has taken him to Cincinnati, Rochester and finally to his present locale, South Florida, as the Marlins' director of minor league administration.
"There's so many different elements that are a part of the Marlins' situation that make it as exciting as it is," Lunetta said. "One, is the reunion with all the (former) Expos' (front-office) personnel, the fact it's an expansion franchise and it's owned by Wayne Huizenga. We have a strong franchise. And living in a warm climate certainly doesn't detract from my enthusiasm."
Lunetta's duties in recent months have included: obtaining equipment; interviewing and selecting sites for the Marlins' minor league teams (Erie, Pa. and Kissimmee, Fla.); working closely with the team's financial people in a variety of matters; studying baseball's administrative rule book; selecting a site for the June mini-camp; researching possibilities for a spring training site; putting budgets together; and looking ahead to the June amateur draft.
"I've called on close friends in baseball and they've answered questions," Lunetta said. "They've helped me a great deal. They realize we're going to make some mistakes, miss some things, but as long as they are not major mistakes, we're OK."
"When David (Dombrowski, general manager) hired me, he made the comment that we'll probably only have one opportunity to build an expansion franchise," Lunetta said. "Many people in the game have long contended if you ever have a chance to build a team from scratch, jump at it."
Lunetta has fallen head over heels.
"My opportunity has been everything, and more than, I anticipated," he said. "Sometimes I find myself having to contain myself because this is such a positive environment. Its so challenging and sometimes the day-to-day responsibilities are filled with so much energy and excitement, it sometimes borders on indescribable."
Under the lights Thursday night at Joe Robbie stadium, the prototype uniforms that the Marlins will be wearing next year were modeled for the team's top brass. The man doing the modeling was Lunetta.
"A year ago if somebody told me, 'Twelve months from this day, you're going to be running around Joe Robbie Stadium displaying a new uniform of the Florida Marlins,' I would have said, "You're ready for Gowanda (State Hospital) and I'll follow you there," Lunetta said.
Yes, things have worked out quite nicely for him, thank you. But there is one problem.
"The most difficult thing for us right now is to have to wait a whole year to throw out the first pitch," Lunetta said.
Yet, as he knows all too well, good things happen to those who wait.