I didn't make a local connection.
It was just another piece of baseball news -- front-office news at that -- released during the off-season. To me, it was like water off a duck's back. A guy got promoted from within the Pirates front office. Big deal. Happens every day in the big leagues.
Except that it was a big deal, because this Bryan Minniti happened to be the same Bryan Minniti I knew from Central League baseball a few years back. He played for the Shiloh team in 1998 and 1999.
I didn't have a clue that this Minniti was that Minniti until I received a telephone call a couple weeks ago, bringing me up to speed. As it turns out, this is a story about a local man making good in the world of big-time athletics. Minniti, 27, moved with
his parents, Mark and Linda Minniti, to Shiloh about 15 years ago. In 1998, he graduated from York Catholic High School, where he also played baseball. He also played American Legion baseball for Shiloh, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002.
Minniti didn't play baseball in college -- "I knew I wasn't good enough," he said -- so he went to Pitt to study to become a doctor. "I quickly figured out I wasn't smart enough to do that, either," he added.
"I was always good at numbers and computers," Minniti said, "but I was totally naive about the baseball industry. They quickly put me to work as an intern doing statistical projects for the major league staff. Two weeks into my internship, the general manager called a two-hour staff meeting. From that point, I was locked in. I knew that was what I wanted to do."
And he did such a good job that the Pirates hired him full time even though he had a year of college to complete before he could graduate.
"That year," Minniti said, "I put in a lot of 40- to 60-hour work weeks. Plus, I went to school full time. But what a learning experience."
In the years that followed, Minniti became increasingly involved in roster and rule compliance, salary arbitration, contract cases, research, player development and scouting, in addition to statistical projects. Then last fall, the former general manager, Dave Littlefield, was fired. A lot of Minniti's co-workers were let go, too.
But Minniti, now in his eighth year with the Pirates, stayed. Not only did he stay, but he was promoted to director of baseball operations, which basically means he's responsible for just about every administrative duty you can think of from batting helmet compliance to budgeting, information technology and free-agent signings.
"I do a little bit of everything," he said. "I'm responsible for managing the major league rules and regulations, along with waivers and transactions. It means a lot of late nights, but it's also been a lot of fun."
Minniti's in Florida right now, a couple weeks into a seven-week stint at spring training. He attends major league and minor league workouts. He sits in on meetings with the coaching staff. He's involved in negotiating contracts. It's a busy time, but he wouldn't change a thing.
"Baseball's always been my passion, " he said. "I was never a Pirates fan growing up, but I was always a baseball fan. As a college student, I'd often buy a $6 ticket and sit in the outfield bleachers to watch the Pirates play. Now I'm working for the Pirates.
"Hey, I'm living a dream."
Like I said, local man makes good. Very, very good.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run every Thursday. Reach him by e-mail at: email@example.com.