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Get to know Padres player development's Allison Luneborg

She was named San Diego's director of baseball ops in November
March 27, 2024

PEORIA, ARIZ – Prospects like Ethan Salas and Jackson Merrill are a large part of why the Padres have the No. 4 farm system in baseball. But there are many folks behind the scenes who also help make the organization shine. One of them is Allison Luneborg. The Ohio native

PEORIA, ARIZ – Prospects like Ethan Salas and Jackson Merrill are a large part of why the Padres have the No. 4 farm system in baseball. But there are many folks behind the scenes who also help make the organization shine.

One of them is Allison Luneborg. The Ohio native worked her way through facilities and event operations positions at her alma mater, Ohio State, and then with the Florida Collegiate Summer League. She got her Master’s in Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University. Since 2022, Luneborg has been a part of San Diego’s player development staff, getting bumped up to director of baseball ops in November. Luneborg is one of about 115 women working in player development among MLB front offices.

This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and length. What does your job entail, day-to-day?

Luneborg: It's different every day, but to start, on the Minor League end right now during Spring Training, we're trying to figure out our rosters and how players are going to break camp to which affiliates. ... A lot of special projects off to the side, whether it's working on prospect lists, putting together our Spring Breakout roster and working with the coaches for that. During the season, it's a lot of transactions, so keeping track of players, where they're at, how they're performing at a certain level, someone gets injured, who's the next person basically to go up to fill in for that spot. What goes into those roster and transaction decisions?

Luneborg: Minor League coaches who have worked with the player specifically gives us feedback. We have player plans that they work through, so have they met the goals on the player plans? What is the rating on our staff, like one to five? Have they reached the four level where they should move up a little bit? Are they still at that two, three, or maybe they need a little more work before pushing to the next level? So that's something we look at. There's the stats to look at too. [For pitchers we look at] data, strikeout to base on balls is a huge component that we look at on our end, see how accurate they are in the zone, command, stuff. A lot of it goes into it. For position players we obviously talk more with our position coaches. And then we do include higher-ups as well. What challenges have you faced in your career thus far?

Luneborg: It’s always hard to get that first foot in your door when you're working in sports, whether a man or a woman, so I think I've been just lucky with the experiences that I've had that I've made some really good connections at Ohio State and with the summer league and at VCU. … Obviously baseball has been known as a man's sport where women are trying to get their foot in the door, but I think it's been super helpful here that our farm director [Ryley Westman] and our PD system is very open to everybody, honestly. They're always inviting me or inviting one of the other women like, ‘Come sit in the Minor League coaches’ room for a little bit.’ ‘Come out on the field and watch the practice.’ They really push us to get ingrained with our players and ingrained with our coaches. What's your favorite part of your job?

Luneborg: I think my favorite part of my job is that you can go to your office and watch a baseball game in the middle of the day. … The other one is really, since I've been here a couple of years, is seeing the Minor League players I got to know and see them succeed at their goals. … That's what we're here for is player development, to see them succeed and develop, and once they do that, it's like ‘Wow, it was all worth it.’ How have you seen the Padres organization develop in the past two years?

Luneborg: The first trade deadline that I really experienced myself was that [Juan] Soto trade where we got Soto and a lot of our players like Robert Hassell, then Robert Gasser [in the Josh Hader deal] were all traded. Everyone says it depleted our farm system, but I really think that helped push it to grow a little bit because we're back up among the top-ranked farm systems, which is crazy after just a year of having lost so many prospects. Our coaches here are incredible. We have daily team meetings and just the things they talk about when they talk about the players. You can just hear the excitement and the love that they have for the guys they work with. And it's really cool to see because this is what's developing them. Who has stood out this spring?

Luneborg: There’s been quite a few, but one example is [Leodalis] De Vries. I haven't personally connected with him yet but I met him in the [Dominican Republic] when the international signing period [began]. The first time he ever flew over to the US was for Spring Training, which I thought was incredible because he fit right in the first day. He went out in a [simulated] game, had a double. You would never know he just arrived here; it was insane. I see him interact with players out there on different drills and in sim games and the players are including him just like he's been here forever. So, he's someone I'm really excited to see develop more. He'll likely start here in Arizona, but just seeing him develop more, and it's going to be really fun to watch in the future. I also don't want to be cliché but just seeing Jackson Merrill develop. What is your goal for this season?

Luneborg: My goal is just continue to learn. I'm starting to get a little more ingrained on the Major League end, and I'm just trying to learn more on different roles and transactions up there, and how our front office higher-ups make transactions. If you had a walk-up song, what would it be?

Luneborg: "Chicken Fried” [by Zac Brown Band]. That was my summer anthem. I swear every summer back when I still lived in Ohio, I loved "Chicken Fried." You would roll down the back roads with your car windows down.

Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.