IndyIndians.com sat down with Kyle Stark for a preseason discussion on Thursday, March 6. The 29-year-old Ball State graduate is in his first season as director of player development for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Q: Where did you grow up? Did you play baseball when you were younger?
A: I attended Bradford High School in Bradford, Pa. It's near the New York/Pennsylvania line. I had some opportunities to play baseball or volleyball in college, but ended up attending Ball State University.
Ball State was a great experience for me. I also earned a law degree from the University of Toledo and master's in business from St. Bonaventure University. I started coaching at St. Bonaventure and that ultimately got me a job with the Cleveland Indians.
Q: What did you study at Ball State? What kinds of things did you do outside the classroom?
A: I studied sports administration at Ball State. I also intended to play volleyball there, but, unfortunately, that didn't pan out. I really enjoyed my time at Ball State. There are a lot of good people there.
The Ball State athletic department gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet. I had an opportunity to meet (Associate Athletic Director) Pat Quinn, and he helped me build a strong foundation. Pat is a former collegiate head coach and great baseball guy.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to work in professional baseball?
A: My dad coached baseball when I was growing up. He helped develop my passion for the game. I started working camps and coaching at an early age. I wanted to stay involved with the game, and knew I couldn't play forever.
Q: Who are some of your professional mentors?
A: There are a ton of guys who have helped me along the way. I don't feel right singling people out because I don't want to miss anyone. In addition to Pat Quinn, the coaches at Toledo and St. Bonventure were great to work with.
I owe a lot to the entire Cleveland Indians organization. Those guys were great to work with, and they really helped get my career off on the right foot. I've tried to shape my own ideas and philosophies after picking up things from the people I've been around.
Q: Talk about your professional experience before taking this job with the Pirates.
A: I was the coordinator of baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians. I did a little bit of everything, and it was a great experience. I was their unofficial assistant farm director in 2007. I was exposed to arbitration, contracts, the draft, all aspects of scouting and several other areas.
Q: Did you know anything about the Indianapolis Indians or Victory Field before accepting your current position?
A: I've been to Victory Field for some games as a fan. It's a beautiful facility in a great downtown setting. I'm a big fan of Indianapolis overall. I've been able to spend some time in the city, and it's definitely a great place.
Q: When you explain your job to people who know nothing about professional baseball, what do you say?
A: Ultimately, the farm directors are responsible for the development of players. For us, that includes approximately 60 Minor League staff members and over 200 Minor League players.
We are responsible for each player's individual development -- both on and off the field. We need to have a plan for each guy, and need to make sure that we follow that plan.
Q: Who are the key members of your staff? How does player development fit into the baseball operations department and organization as a whole?
A: The main focus this off-season has been putting together our Minor League staffs. We have 16 new staff members this year.
Diane DePasquale is our Minor League administrator, and we'd be in trouble without her. She does a great job handling a lot of the day-to-day logistics for our department.
Q: A lot of people say small-market teams such as the Pirates rely on their farm system more than large-market teams like the Yankees or Red Sox. Would you agree or disagree?
A: The player development system is imperative in every market. I also think player development and scouting are the backbone of every Major League organization.
You look at big-market teams -- like the Yankees and Red Sox. Their runs have included a lot of organizational guys. The biggest difference is they have money to cover up mistakes. Some people might think the margin of error isn't as great for us. We need to make sure we've developing as much talent as possible so we can maintain a competitive club on the budget we have.
Q: As a first-year farm director, what are some of the biggest challenges you expect to face?
A: We are facing challenges every day, but that makes the job fun. We need to build a farm system, and we feel like we're doing that right now. We have a lot of good people on the staff, and we're trying to get everyone on the same page from a philosophy standpoint.
We want to make sure our players have every resource possible to be successful. Then, once those resources are in place, we want to help our players reach their potential.
We also have to see the big picture because, in reality, we're building an organization, not just a player development system. I have experience on the scouting side and I want to contribute in that manner.
Overall, with guys like (General Manager) Neal (Huntington) and (Director of Scouting) Greg (Smith), I'd say our baseball operations department has great people in place. Now, we just need to fit all of the pieces together.
Q: What is a farm director's schedule like during the season? How often do you visit the affiliates? Who are you communicating with during those trips (i.e. managers, coaches, players, agents, etc.)?
A: This first year is going to include a lot of evaluation. We need to see what we have and what we need. We need to see how our ideas and goals are being implemented in all of the Minor League cities.
I will be on the road a lot. I hope to visit each full-season affiliate (Indy, Altoona, Lynchburg and Hickory) at least four times between April and August.
Actually, I'm looking forward to the travel. I think communication with our staff is unbelievably important. We want to be honest with the players, and we want them to always know where they stand.
We have to communicate with the respective front offices. We are also talking to managers, coaches, trainers, players, agents, etc. Basically, anyone who works in this game has some sort of connection to player development.
I really enjoy my job. You face a different challenge every day and that's what makes it fun.
Q: What do you like to do away from work? Do you have any special interests or hobbies?
A: Right now, there's not a lot of time away from work (laughing). The three most important things in my life are my faith, my family and baseball.
I have a wonderful wife, Heather, and two young boys, Chance (8) and Cooper (19 months). I need to make sure that I'm being a good husband and father at all times. These seven weeks at Spring Training are tough because my wife and sons are still living in Cleveland, but we're doing the best we can.
Outside of my family, I enjoy spending time hunting and working out. Those activities get my mind off of work, and everyone needs to enjoy themselves at some point.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.