I have not bugged Neal Huntington’s office on Federal Street. The judge specifically told me I was no longer able to do that.
But if there was a listening device on his phone, I’d like to think that a recent conversation between Neal and top pitching prospect, Mitch Keller, might have gone something…like this:
Neal Huntington: Hi, Mitch! It’s Neal.
Mitch Keller (distracted, playing Fortnite): Neal ? Uhhh…
NH: Huntington. Neal Huntington. GM of the Gi-…I mean…the Pirates. How are things in Iowa?
MK: Everywhere I look there’s corn. There’s…so…much…corn.
NH: Well, in a couple weeks you can come out to Pittsburgh for Piratefest, if you like.
MK: That sounds nice. What’s Pittsburgh like in late January?
NH: It’s usually a wintry hellscape that reminds people of the planet Hoth from Empire Strikes Back.
MK: Oh. Well at least Piratefest is a nice weekend event to distract people from all that.
NH: Well…we’ve slimmed it down in recent years from a 3-day event to basically a few hours. We didn’t want to pay a rental fee at the great Convention Center that could accommodate all our fans, so we just jam them in at PNC Park in certain spots. Also, now we don’t have to actually take tough questions from fans, either. That was always really, really tough for me to do. Anyone in the audience could see it on my face.
MK (back to playing Fortnite): At least Spring Training is coming soon. Can’t wait to get to Florida and then have a chance to break Spring Training with the major league team!
NH (snorts back a laugh): Uh…well…yeah, sure. That’s actually part of the reason I called. I wanted to go over our internal checklist of things we want to see you do prior to getting promoted this year. OK, first…we want to see you have some struggles in the minors. Things have come pretty easy for you.
MK: Uh, Neal ? My whole time at Indy last year was a struggle, from the end of June to the end of the season. I made 10 starts and only in two of them did I pitch five or more innings while giving up 2 runs or less. The whole time there was pure frustration.
NH: Right! And that was awesome! It prevented most of the fanbase from bugging us constantly about bringing you up last year. Thanks!
MK: You’re welcome?
NH: You’ve completed both your basic and your advanced certification at Pirate Fastball Academy, so that’s very good. And your curveball is a nasty pitch, too.
MK: Thank you. So will I be pitching after Taillon or after Archer in the rotation?
NH: Cool those jets, corn kid. Your changeup still needs a lot of refinement. We had you throw it so much last year that it affected your walk rate. Without it, lefties will eat you alive.
MK: OK. But Ray Searage is one of the best pitching coaches in the Majors, right ? He can just work with me in my bullpen sessions. Right?
NH: That’s right. But it’s also not right. You’ll just be in the minors for a little bit while you’re working on some things.
MK: …OK. How long will that take?
NH (immediately): About 60-70 days until you’re not in the projected top 20% of service time for your class.
NH: I mean…hopefully if everything works out, maybe around the first or second week of June.
MK: That’s not too bad. I’m very excited to join the Pirates in Pittsburgh very soon.
NH: We’re very excited to see you perform well, too. (mumbles under breath) Until arbitration comes and we tell the arbitrator how terrible you are so we can suppress your earnings to our benefit.
MK: What’s that?
NH: See you in Bradenton!