Pirates put pierogi back in the race

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Pierogies float to the top.

Andrew Kurtz, one of the men who perform as a racing pierogi during Pirates' home games, has been rehired by the team after management determined that "he should not have been fired" for posting a disparaging remark about the team on the Internet.

"The employee has been rehired because he was not terminated in accordance with company [human resources] procedures," Brian Warecki, the team's communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday night. "While his conduct was in violation of our company policy (and many other companies), it was not subject to termination at this time."

Mr. Kurtz, 24, who was in his second year as one of the team's mascots, was dismissed Thursday evening, hours after posting a message on his Facebook page that said the contract extensions the Pirates gave to general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell would mean another losing season.

He said he apologized to Dan Millar, the team's mascot coordinator, but he was still fired from the $25-a-night job.

A newspaper account of his firing Saturday generated a firestorm of bad publicity for the Pirates, but the team already was in the process of reaching out to Mr. Kurtz.

"The fact of the matter is that neither HR nor senior management were involved in the decision to fire the employee," Mr. Warecki said. "When they were made aware of the improper termination on Friday evening, they conducted an investigation into the firing. Upon learning the facts of the case and determining that he should not have been fired, [management] contacted the employee Saturday morning to offer him his job back, and he accepted."

The bad publicity, Mr. Warecki said, did not factor into the decision.

"He was rehired on Saturday morning because it was the right thing to do," Mr. Warecki said. "That same decision would have been made of any employee who was let go in this manner, whether it was reported in the media or not."

Mr. Kurtz said the resulting publicity from his dismissal was "overwhelming," and that he didn't tell anyone that he'd been rehired because he wanted to leave that in the hands of the Pirates.

He also was hoping the controversy would die down.

"They told me I should have had a warning or someone should have sat down and talked with me about what you should or shouldn't do, and the termination was uncalled for," he said, adding that he was "happy and excited" to be rejoining his fellow racing pierogies on the field after the Pirates return from their current road trip.

"I'm still a Pirates fan," he said.


Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456.


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