NATIONAL HARBOR — Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak should be familiar to Orioles fans. He worked closely with Andy MacPhail to rebuild a long-struggling Orioles franchise before heading west to serve as assistant general manager under then-Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. Now, he's back working under MacPhail trying to refocus a Phillies organization that fell into decline after winning 102 games and the National League East title in 2011.
Klentak, who is taking part in the winter meetings at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, paused to reflect on the front office journey that carried him into one of the top jobs in baseball a year ago at the age of 35. It started in Baltimore.
"I loved working for the Orioles. I loved living in Baltimore. I thought the city was awesome and I was very fortunate during my time there to have a mentor like Andy MacPhail, who has had a Hall of Fame career and is a Hall of Fame person," Klentak said. "I think it was important in my career, when Andy left, it was important for me to try something different. And again, I was very fortunate to go work for Jerry Dipoto and experience what it's like to work for a big-market team and live at the beach, which wasn't bad either.
"I had four great years there and had the pleasure of watching Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and some superstar players over there, and when the stars aligned that Andy was in Philadelphia – I'm from the northeast myself, from the Boston area – the chance to move back home and take over the baseball operations group of a franchise that has a lot to look forward to, it was a decision I couldn't pass on.
"I've been unbelievably fortunate in my career to have worked for the people I have and to have some of the opportunities I've had at a young age. I really am."
Klentak and MacPhail certainly deserve some of the credit for the way the Orioles finally blossomed under Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, since many of the key players were drafted or acquired during their time here. But Klentak said he's just happy to see that the Orioles got where they were trying to go.
"The whole time that we were working there, we felt that we were doing the right thing," Klentak said. "I think we knew that sometimes you don't know exactly when it was going to come together, but we felt like we were doing it the right way. And what Buck and Dan and Brady [Anderson] and the rest of that group have done over the last handful of years to take that next step forward, they deserve all the credit in the world. It's been great.
"For me, I'm happy I went through that experience because now that I'm with the Phillies and again, we're going young and we're placing a premium on the draft and player development, we have a model and we've done it in Baltimore and we know that it can work. So, it gives us confidence for the Phillies."