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Huntington defends SEALS training

| Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The Pirates' controversial Navy SEALS training program for its minor-league players escaped mention during season-ticket holders' questions to team management Friday at PirateFest. But then there was Saturday's Q&A at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center open to the so-called “general fans.”

One of them, Matthew Wein, 30, of Pittsburgh, raised the point while challenging the qualifications and expertise of assistant general manager Kyle Stark and director of player development Larry Broadway. Among his questions and comments, Wein cited “the techniques these guys are using in the minors, the militaristic garbage to train baseball players.”

In the face of widespread criticism, Pirates owner Bob Nutting last month said the program would be discontinued. But with the subject raised again, general manager Neal Huntington again was put on the defensive, explaining the motives and concepts behind the program. The Pirates are committed “to the best physical, best mental, best personal development we can get,” he said. “So if borrowing from the elite of the elites is a bad thing, I'm puzzled by that.”

Huntington asserted that “130 collegiate and Olympic teams have gained valuable insight, gained valuable experience from the Navy SEALS. We're not alone in our belief that these techniques work. As a matter of fact, these are the scientifically proven techniques that help young men grow, that help young men develop.”

Later, unprompted, Pirates president Frank Coonelly also defended the training methods.

After Huntington's answer, Wein left the microphone uttering “Hoka Hey,” the infamous calling card of the controversy taken from a motivational email sent by Stark.

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bcohn@tribweb.com or 412-320-7810.

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