John Russell: Meet the new Pirates manager
John Russell tries on a Pirates jersey after being introduced as the 38th manager of the team yesterday at PNC Park.
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By introducing John Russell as their new manager yesterday, the Pirates placed another brick in the wall as they rebuild their organization.
Another couple of important building blocks probably will be cemented within the next 72 hours.
General manager Neal Huntington seems to have the names of the Pirates' new scouting director and minor-league director etched in stone.
"We're deep in the process," Huntington said. "We're close on both of those positions, and in both cases I'm extremely excited about the direction we're headed. We hope to have some closure there sooner than later.
"We're establishing the leadership team, and we're ready to implement the system. We have the 'who' -- or almost have the 'who' -- and now we go tackle the 'how.' "
Russell, 46, will be a large part of the "how" as the Pirates seek an end to their streak of 15 consecutive losing seasons.
"The difference I need to make is in the clubhouse and on the field," Russell said. "Accountability is the backbone of what we're going to do. There is going to be accountability.
"There's going to be attention to detail. We're going to try to win, and we're going to try to win today. I'm going to be accountable for what happens -- myself and my coaching staff and the players. That's one of the things I'm going to instill in them. If we do it right, we're going to win more games. It's worked for me in the past."
Russell managed eight seasons in the Minnesota minor-league system and two seasons at the Class AAA level with Philadelphia around a three-year stint as the Pirates' third-base coach (2003-05).
Twice he was named manager of the year in his team's league. Twice more he was named best managerial prospect by Baseball America.
He interviewed for the manager's job with Texas and Washington last fall.
A week ago, he was the manager of the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.
Now he has broken into the major-league managerial ranks, having agreed to what probably is a three-year contract worth around $1.6 million.
"This obviously is a great honor and a privilege for me," Russell said as he slipped on a No. 7 Pirates jersey at a PNC Park news conference. "But the name 'Pirates' on the front of this jersey is more important than the name 'Russell' on the back."
Russell, a former major-league catcher, was interviewed by Huntington and Pirates president Frank Coonelly in the middle of last week.
"I could sense where we were going about changing the culture here," Russell said. "All the things they're looking for, I'm looking for.
"We're going to do everything we can to make this a long-lasting culture and where we have the passion to win. As a manager and as a staff and as an organization, this is what we're going to do. And the players will follow -- because it looks good and they feel good about it.
"When you start playing better baseball, you feel better. It's a process, and it's something we're going to have to stay on as a manager and a staff. We're going to do it right. We're not going to miss things as a staff. You can't let things go. If we see it, we have to make sure it goes in the right direction."
Russell and Huntington probably will finalize a coaching staff after Huntington returns from the general managers' meetings that began yesterday in Orlando, Fla.
It's probable Torey Lovullo, who managed Cleveland's Class AAA affiliate in Buffalo, will be on that staff. Sal Rende, who was Russell's hitting instructor at Class AAA Ottawa in 2007, is another possible coach.
Class AAA Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett, who interviewed for the job Russell received, could rejoin the Pirates staff. Jewett was the Pirates' third base coach before Russell.
"We have a strong vision of how we want things to go forward, and John matches that," Huntington said. "The accountability, the responsibility, how we play the game, the pride in the Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, the pride in playing the game the right way, the pride in preparing, in outworking other teams -- both from a player standpoint and a staff standpoint. That's our focus."
Russell, described as "a quiet but intense person" by Huntington, knew Friday he would be the Pirates' next manager.
While Russell and his wife, Jamie, did some grocery shopping in Peoria, Ariz., Huntington called to offer him the job.
"Obviously, I accepted -- loudly!" Russell said. "It was a great feeling. My wife was a little vocal, screaming, 'This is great!'
"A few heads turned. It was fun. I was very excited."
The Russells weren't so excited, though, that they forgot about the groceries.
"I ran to the car and she paid and we went home," Russell said. "That grocery store will never be the same."
Coonelly, Huntington and Russell hope the Pirates won't, either.
First Published November 6, 2007 12:00 am