MINNEAPOLIS (AP) When Jim Rantz signed his first professional contract with the Washington Senators in 1960, the skinny pitcher out of the University of Minnesota was just hoping to hang around the organization for a few seasons.
He wound up staying for the next 52 years.
The senior director of minor league operations for the Minnesota Twins announced his retirement on Monday, ending an incredible run with his hometown organization that included stints as a player, manager, public relations official, scout and farm system coordinator. The announcement was made in Fort Myers, Fla., where the team is conducting its organizational meetings.
``This has been an incredible journey for me and for my family and I look forward to spending more time with my wife, Pearl, our four children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren,'' Rantz said in a statement issued by the team.
After spending five years as a player and manager, he joined the Twins' front office following the 1965 season. He spent four years in public relations before moving into the minor league and scouting department. Rantz became director of minor league operations in 1986.
The 75-year-old Rantz was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2007 and has been a beloved figure in the organization for five decades. He had a hand in bringing future general manager Terry Ryan and future manager Ron Gardenhire into the organization, helped stock the 1987 and 1991 World Series championship rosters and then helped rebuild the farm system in the late 1990s to set the table for a run of six division titles in nine seasons.
One of his biggest claims to fame is being the first Twins scout to see Kirby Puckett play. Rantz recommended Puckett to the Twins, who drafted him in 1982 and watched him become the face of the franchise and a Hall of Fame center fielder.
``I am proud of our staff's many accomplishments and still get a thrill when a young player advances through our system and plays in the major leagues,'' Rantz said.
The Twins have promoted 36-year-old Brad Steil, Rantz's top assistant, to interim farm director while they search for Rantz's replacement.
The Twins have long been known as a franchise that values loyalty, but two straight last-place finishes in the AL Central have led to some changes. When the season ended, the team parted ways with bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who had been with the organization since 1978, and longtime coaches Jerry White and Steve Liddle.
But Rantz had been considering this move for some time, and it came as little surprise. He will officially leave the team at the end of this year, making next year the first season in the Twins' existence without Rantz around in some capacity.
``I am most grateful to the Griffith family for bringing me into the game and to the Pohlad family for allowing me to contribute to the Twins organization for 52 years,'' he said. ``It has been especially rewarding to do this with one club in my hometown.''