Jon Hunton has been a solid closer for the Somerset Patriots, but his impact goes far deeper.
This season, he's been promoted from an assistant position under manager Brett Jodie, to Director of Player Personnel. He'll also continue to be the Atlantic League team's closer.
The North Plainfield, New Jersey native was named the league's Reliever of the Year in 2013, earning 37 saves, a franchise record. He ended the season 3-6 with 34 strikeouts in 57 innings.
Every player knows the day will come when he has to decide what to do with all that energy and time, once their playing days are over. Hunton is well aware of his own career sunset on the horizon. He gets it. But he already has a jump on that day. He's put his efforts into career growth, learning the other side of the game.
With 2014, he expands that experience.
In his own words, here's Hunton:
In The Beginning... : After playing 2 years (07-08) in Indy Ball between my minor league stints with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's I realized how a lot of affiliated players know nothing about Independent Baseball. During those 2 seasons I played for 5 Indy Teams in 3 of the top Indy League so I got a real good sense of the leagues, cities, level of play, how things worked, and I made some quality connections. So in doing so I realized that I wanted to help friends, ex teammates or opponents with continuing their careers in indy ball and tried helping them get hooked up with good organizations or I gave them my opinions on places or people from my experiences. It started with the Fort Worth Cats then with Grand Prairie AirHogs then with Laredo Lemurs and then with the Long Island Ducks before I was actually given a title/role as Assistant Director of Player Personnel with the Somerset Patriots last season. It started out helping players into I realized I can help find, contact and sign players for the teams I was playing for to strengthen them and to make the team better so I did and I had a lot of success by doing so before I finally was given a title for it. So with those beginning years of experience working with the managers and GM's of the teams I played for on the side, I definitely got to learn the front office side of things and still was able to play myself. So with the success and experience I was gaining i realized that it was something I really enjoyed doing and wanted to pursue it. I notified Brett Jodie (manager) and Patrick McVerry (GM) of Somerset before last season about a possible opportunity and they were both all for it.
On Learning The Ropes: This is technically my 5th season doing this, but only 2nd with a title to show for. I guess you can say that my first 3 seasons doing it was my "experimental days". And during those 3 seasons helping my teams: Fort Worth Cats (2008), Grand Prairie AirHogs (2011), Laredo Lemurs (2012) and Long Island Ducks (2012)...their were 4 Division Titles and 2 Championships. So with the success definitely brought confidence. And with last year finally getting a title to show for, i knew that now i got my foot in the door and just had to prove myself, which I believe i did or else the team wouldn't have had the success it had and I wouldn't have received the promotion to Director of Player Personnel a year later.
Working with Players: From the the owner down to the fans, the setup and atmosphere that is created from top to bottom gives the players the best chance to have success on the field and to be as comfortable as possible off the field. All i do is open the players eyes to the experience and opportunities that the Somerset Patriots can provide to them and their careers. The player of course has to do their part on the field, too.
Forward Thinking: As the seasons pass, I definitely understand my playing days are getting closer and closer to an end, but that's something I don't really think about. I want to keep playing as long as i physically can, but when that day comes when i have to "hang em up", i know that i will have the experience and success under my belt to continue working in the front office along with possibly becoming a pitching coach. After that, who knows maybe I will want to become a manager or GM, but those are things that in time will tell. I'm just very happy for my opportunities now and the direction things are going for me and my careers.
Straight Talk: I think the experience of doing it on the side for three years, learning the business, creating connections over the years with players/coaches/front office execs, and being straightforward has helped my success. i am a player myself, so I know I wouldn't want to be misled or lied to so when I talk to players that i know or don't know to sign and play for Somerset, I treat and talk to them the way I would want to be talked to and treated. being straight forward about roles or salary (whether the player likes it or not) is much more respected than being misleading or uninformative. so I speak "straight-up" and am very detailed and thorough when speaking to players. the players were very talented that I helped bring in so I definitely have to thank them for trusting me to sign with Somerset and their efforts on the field. We at Somerset believe that to have success you need to have chemistry amongst the team and so we look for great clubhouse guys and great players second. so far its been a great ride and I'm excited to see what the future has to bring!
You can follow him on Twitter @Big_Jon_Hunton