Saturday January 26, 2013

When Dan Duquette started his Sports Academy in Hinsdale a decade ago, he brought Kent Qualls from the Boston Red Sox to be his right-hand man.

Ten years later, the two are reunited with the Baltimore Orioles, as Duquette has hired Qualls to be the Orioles' director of minor league operations.

"We have some very capable people who have been working at the Academy," Duquette said in a phone interview with The Eagle. "Some of them will get a more responsible position."

Qualls, who has been the director of Duquette's Sports Academy since its founding, said nothing should change for the campers, teams and groups that have been going to the Sports Academy for a decade.

"The Academy is going to go forward," Qualls said. "We're in the process of putting some people in place [to run it]. The Academy is full-steam ahead.

"We spent 10 years building it. We want to see it continue to grow."

Qualls also spent several years helping line up players and running the on-field operations for the Pittsfield Dukes of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He would often be seen helping get the playing surface at Wahconah Park ready for games.

"One thing you learn early with baseball is that you do many jobs and wear many hats," Qualls said with a laugh.

Qualls and his family live in Johns Creek, Ga., and will move to the Baltimore area when school lets out. He and his family spent their summers in Hinsdale at the Academy.

The hiring of Qualls by Baltimore's executive vice president of baseball operations brings the two of them back together for the fourth time. Qualls served as the Boston Red Sox's director of player development (1998-2001) and director of minor league operations for the Montreal Expos (1987-94) while Duquette worked and was general manager for both teams.

"Kent has over 20 years experience in player development," Duquette said. "He was part of a good operation in Montreal and Boston. His skill set, particularly in training and medical organization, will be a big help and an assist to the Orioles. He provides leadership to the player development operation."

The Orioles are, in essence, putting a two-headed farm system into practice. Qualls will be working closely with Brian Graham, Baltimore's newly appointed director of player development. Graham had been the team's coordinator of minor league Instruction. He is in his 32nd year in professional baseball and sixth with the Orioles.

"The two of us are going to oversee the minor league department," Qualls said. "I'm going to handle the administrative things in terms of dealing with agents, [player] contracts and maintain relations with [Baltimore's] minor league affiliates."

According to the web site Minorleagueball.com, the Orioles have the No. 19 farm system in baseball. Pitcher Dylan Bundy is the only Baltimore prospect that is listed on Baseball America's Minor League All-Star Team, a team made up of players from all levels of the minors. Bundy is the No. 1 prospect in the Class A Carolina League, while current Orioles infielder Manny Machado was the top prospect in the Class AA Eastern League.

"You're never completely happy with where you're at," Qualls. "We're hoping to grow and move forward and work with the scouting department and develop the players they bring in."