by Scott Kindberg
July 21, 1996
Lunetta Enjoying Life Down on Florida 'Farm'
After all, he has spent the better part of the last 20 years reaching for the stars while, at the same time, trying to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.
But not even the battle-tested Jamestown native could have predicted what was in store for him two weeks ago.
"In this business, things can change so quickly," Lunetta said.
So when the Florida Marlins fired their manager Rene Lachemann, July 7, it set in motion a series of events that catapaulted Lunetta into one of the more promising positions in any major league organization - farm director.
As farm director, a job formerly held by John Boles, who left the front office to become the Marlins manager, Lunetta will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of player development for the major league club.
"I was asked to take over the farm director's responsibilities for John and we'll take it through the end of the season and re-evaluate at that point," said Lunetta who retains the title of director of minor league administration, a position he's held since joining the Marlins on December 1, 1991. "John has the option to come back to his old job, and then we'd go back to the way things were. If he chooses to manage, hopefully, the club will be satisfied with my performance and I'll be offered an opportunity to continue with that role. In this business, you certainly don't take anything for granted."
Lunetta, 41, will work closely with Rob Leary, who will be the Marlins' acting field coordinator. Together, they will run the organization's minor league system, which includes teams in Charlotte, NC; Portland, ME; Kane County, IL; Brevard County, FL; Utica; Melbourne, FL; and the Dominican Republic.
"We have 175 players and 35 staff members that are spread out all over the eastern seaboard and there's a lot on your daily agenda," Lunetta said.
Lunetta, who graduated from Jamestown High School in 1973 and from Brockport State in 1980, is used to having plenty of irons in the fire. During the course of almost two decades in baseball, Lunetta has served in various capacities at both the minor and major league capacities. From working in the antiquated offices underneath the grandstand at College Stadium in the 1980s to experiencing the thrill of joining the Marlins in 1991 and building it from the bottom up, Lunetta has seen it all.
And while he admits his strengths are more in administration - rules compliance, financial matters, contracts - Lunetta is learning quickly the art of evaluating talent.
"Anybody in this game who tells you they have this figured out is either naive or ignorant," Lunetta said. "You never stop learning when it comes to development, and I have a lot to learn."
In order to get up to speed more quickly, Lunetta spends a lot of time watching games and, more specifically, players. He'll also talk to people, particularly scouts, and ask plenty of questions.
"I'm never off the phone," Lunetta said. "The volume of phone calls is probably 10-fold what it was before. I'm talking to people within the system all day long."
"We're very fortunate we have some outstanding development people in our organization," Lunetta continued. "We don't evaluate our minor league managers on wins and losses. We evaluate our people on how well they teach and instruct, and how well they develop."
Patience is not quite such a priority with the big club, which is 16 games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League east, and seven games back of second-place Montreal.
"We're not even looking at Atlanta," Lunetta said. "Our goal is to get into the playoffs as a wild card, so we have to look at Montreal."
"Here you've got fans that are used to winning. In this market, you can only withstand for only a short time where you don't win and expect to draw."
Such on-field problems fall in Boles' lap now. Lunetta, who used to work out of the same office as the new manager, hopes he can help eliminate some of Boles' headaches by developing talent through the Marlins' farm system.
"Hopefully, some day we'll have the opportunity to win a World Series with this club," he said. "We don't feel like we're that far away, but we're not in the class of Atlanta. Nobody is in this league. But all you have to do is look at where the Braves were six, seven, or eight years ago. You look at what Toronto has accomplished since their inception. How you are able to step up to that level is through development and scouting."
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