Hunsicker happy for supporting role with Dodgers
New senior advisor, former Astros GM to assist from behind the scenes
Bob Engle and Pat Guerrero, who recently left Seattle after heading the Mariners international operations, will join Hunsicker, who was hired Oct. 18 as a senior advisor for baseball operations and sounding board for general manager Ned Colletti.
The recapitalized Dodgers have quickly become a club for which people want to work and play, after years of free-agent players and executives shying away. Unlike some new ownerships that clean house upon arrival, Kasten's actions indicate he'll seek improvement through additions, not subtractions.
"In L.A., Stan is obviously excited about what's going on and the direction they're heading, and it was possible they would need a senior level executive to assist him and Ned, be an extra set of eyes and ears," said Hunsicker. "So not only is there my admiration for Stan, but the fact it's the Dodgers.
"In the late '70s when I was starting my career, the Dodgers were arguably the envy of all of baseball. When I scouted, I recall being with Dodgers scouts and hearing them talk about how great the organization is and they felt they were all part of one big family and ownership really cared about them. They were the first to offer scouts retirement plans. Then their historical success and the image, it's well documented. Stan's commitment to have the Dodgers regain that prominence, it's just an exciting opportunity."
Hunsicker has been on Kasten's radar from years of postseason clashes between Hunsicker's Astros and Kasten's Braves.
"They beat us up pretty good," Hunsicker said of the Braves. "If you can't beat them, join them. Over the years, a friendly competition developed. I left the Astros, Stan left Atlanta, but we kept in touch and talked about, maybe, an opportunity would come up down the road when we could work together."
A general manager in Houston for nine years, Hunsicker was a senior advisor with Tampa Bay for seven years before joining the Dodgers.
"I told Stan, having been a GM and knowing what it's like to have someone forced on you or looking over your shoulder, I would not feel comfortable and I wanted no part of it if Ned was not supportive of it," said Hunsicker. "At this point in my career, I have no interest in being a GM. I have other interests in my life that I want to be able to do. I want this to be a supporting role."
Colletti said he's been looking to add an experienced aide like Hunsicker since another former general manager, Bill LaJoie, served that role for Colletti from 2006-08.
Hunsicker, 62, was Houston's general manager from 1996-2004, with the club winning four division titles. In 1998, when the Astros won 102 games, he was named The Sporting News Executive of the Year.
Hunsicker filled several roles for the Astros from 1978-81, including traveling secretary, Minor League pitching coach, scout and assistant to the GM. From 1981-83, he worked for Tal Smith Enterprises in Houston and was involved in preparing salary arbitration cases. Hunsicker served in various management positions with the Mets before rejoining the Astros.
After the 2004 season, Hunsicker resigned from the Houston GM job with one year remaining on his contract, citing a desire to "take a step back, smell the roses and recharge the batteries" as reasons for his resignation. His wife, Irene, died last year after a decade-long battle with cancer.
After stepping down, Hunsicker spent one year as a Houston advisor, then became a senior advisor to Rays general manager Andrew Friedman while pursuing a passion for thoroughbred horses, which he now races in partnership with Bill Farish of Lanes End Farm in Kentucky.
Hunsicker, who will keep his home in Houston, remarries this month. He said the Dodgers' job, as did the role in Tampa, will allow him to keep a life balance that the demands of a GM job won't.
"I thought I would be in Tampa Bay for three years. It worked so well, it turned into seven," Hunsicker said. "It was a perfect environment for me. I look at the Rays with pride -- they have a solid baseball operations department. I really think there's less of a need for me there now than seven years ago.
"The Dodgers give me the opportunity to come to an organization with what appears to be overwhelming support from ownership and the resources to build the best organization in baseball. There's the relationship I already had with Stan, and I felt Ned and I could work well together. Like Tampa Bay, this is another unique opportunity, and it just felt right."
Colletti said Hunsicker will participate in the Winter Meetings, Spring Training, Trade Deadline decision-making and be in Los Angeles once a month. An early priority will be to jumpstart the Dodgers' waning international presence.
"He'll help our people put together a scouting apparatus internationally, now that we're beefing that up," said Kasten.
Hunsicker said the high-profile life of a GM was fun while it lasted, but he now prefers working in the background.
"I'll be a super-utility man in some sense to support Stan and Ned in whatever area they feel I can help," he said. "[New York columnist] Murray Chass wrote that in my job with Tampa Bay, it was like I was in the witness protection program. I took that as a compliment. The last thing I want is to call attention to myself. I'm very content to have my privacy."