Mike Leuzinger, the superscout who brought outfielder prospect Josh Bell into the Pirates’ system, has turned down a contract renewal offer and has left the organization. Leuzinger was the area supervisor for North Texas and Oklahoma. “It was really just time to move on,” Leuzinger told me by phone from his home in Canton, Texas. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a year or so.”
Leuzinger, 45, joined the Pirates in 2004 after working 12 years for the Dodgers. Among the players he’s scouted and signed are Matt Kemp, Tony Watson, Duke Welker and Andy LaRoche. In 2011, the Pirates lured Bell away from a college scholarship with a $5 million bonus, adding a premier slugger to their minor league system.
The Yankees asked for permission to interview Leuzinger at the end of the season, but the Pirates refused. A few days later, Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri told Leuzinger about management’s decision. “That kind of stung,” Leuzinger said. “I wish I could’ve known what the job was. I asked Joe if he would reconsider. I just wanted to have that opportunity. I’ve been an area scout for 20 years and I think I can do more. When I looked into the crystal ball a couple years down the line with the Pirates, I think I’d be in the same spot.” Leuzinger said the Yankees situation wasn’t the only reason he left; the Pirates’ long stretch of losing took a toll. “I was there for eight of those (20 losing seasons),” he said. “It does wear you down. I’m not the only one. I’m sure Neal (Huntington), Greg (Smith) and Joe feel it, too. But, they all work so hard. I wish people knew how hard they’re working to change things. I have nothing against the Pirates. Greg and Joe truly are class people. It was just time to move on.”
Leuzinger says he holds no grudge, and I take him at his word. Yet, it seems odd the Pirates would value him enough to block the Yanks from stealing him away but also not offer Leuzinger a promotion nor give him any indication one is possible in the near future. Leuzinger walked away from his post with the Bucs despite not having another job lined up. When I talked to him this morning, he said he hopes to get another gig soon — he’s talented and well respected in the industry, so I’m sure he’ll be employed again before too long — but hadn’t ruled out going to the winter meetings Dec. 3-6 to circulate his resume. Overall, this is a big loss for the Pirates, coming just a week after owner Bob Nutting reiterated the importance of bringing more talented scouts into the organization.