The search for Dave Littlefield's successor, which was led by new Pirates president Frank Coonelly, lasted less than two weeks. And for Coonelly, the check list of attributes was simple.
The Pirates president desired a GM with a vision of success and the tenacity to accomplish it. The new GM was to be a baseball-minded executive, with strong leadership skills. And finally, Coonelly wanted someone with an unwavering passion for baseball and for the city of Pittsburgh.
In Coonelly's eyes, no one fit that bill better than Huntington.
"With Neal, I found all those attributes," Coonelly said alongside Huntington on Tuesday. "I felt that he was the ideal candidate, as he has had a lot of different experiences. He has been in the field, seen the players, evaluated the players and has also been in the office where the evaluation takes place and the data is analyzed."
Tuesday's announcement ended a GM search to replace Littlefield, who was dismissed from the position on Sept. 7.
Coonelly would not elaborate on other candidates considered for the position, but it is believed that Jack Zduriencik, the Brewers' director of amateur scouting, and Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' director of player development were also front-runners for the position.
Coonelly did, however, add that though the search was exhaustive, he took a narrowly tailored approach.
"I reviewed the entire baseball landscape, but really had a targeted vision for who I was looking for, and therefore didn't interview as many candidates as perhaps the media wanted me to interview," said Coonelly, who had a working relationship with Huntington in Coonelly's former position in the MLB front offices. "The individuals that I did interview were outstanding candidates, all of them, but Neal brought the most to what I was looking for to move the Pirates forward."
With Coonelly's vision of primarily building the Pirates from the farm system up, Huntington's scouting background is vital to ensuring that this type of system can be successful in Pittsburgh.
Huntington, 38, has spent the last 10 years in Cleveland in a variety of different capacities within the Indians front office. During that tenure, Huntington first served as an assistant director of Minor League operations in 1998, before being promoted to the position of director of player development.
In 2002, Huntington became an assistant to Indians GM Mark Shapiro. He then moved to the position of special assistant to Shapiro following the 2004 season.
Huntington described his most recent position within the Indians organization as one that required the native of Amherst, N.H., to wear a multitude of different hats. As a result, his credentials are broad.
As an adviser to Shapiro and vice president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, Huntington was involved in nearly all personnel and staffing decisions, as well as trade acquisition discussions. He also spent the majority of his time evaluating talent on both the Minor and Major League level.
When asked about Huntington, Shapiro responded: "[Huntington is] one of our chief evaluators and one of our strongest voices on every level," Shapiro said.
Coonelly echoed Shapiro's praise.
"Neal comes from an extremely successful organization in Cleveland." Coonelly said. "Neal has been part of a system that is very similar to the Pittsburgh market, and they utilized all these different avenues of player acquisition, I think extraordinarily well, and Neal is to receive credit for that."
Huntington, who becomes the organization's 12th general manager, also spent six years with the Montreal Expos prior to joining the Indians' front office staff.
"I think there is a tremendous opportunity here with the Pittsburgh Pirates," Huntington said. "We're going to change the culture. We're going to change how we do things. Every one of our decisions will be a progressive process in bringing a winner back to Pittsburgh."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less