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Longtime MLB scout joins Huskies

Les Pajari is back where it all began.

The 1979 Duluth Denfeld graduate, who frequented Duluth Dukes games at Wade Stadium throughout his childhood, and later played and coached at the iconic ballpark, was announced Thursday as senior director of baseball operations for the Huskies.

Pajari retired last fall after 23 years of scouting for the Cleveland Indians.

“You average about 200 nights in a hotel,” Pajari, 55, said. “After 23 years I still loved it, but I just needed to try something else. I wasn’t in a rut yet, but I could see a rut coming.”

Informal conversations with Huskies owner Michael Rosenzweig and general manager Greg Culver started the wheels spinning. Pajari was intrigued at the thought of impacting almost every facet of the on-field product. He will work with manager Daniel Hersey and his staff, scout prospective players and help construct the roster.

All of it was attractive to Pajari, who played baseball, football and hockey at Denfeld. He went on to play college baseball at Augsburg in Minneapolis before returning to Denfeld as a coach. When Pajari was describing the new gig with the Huskies, and all it would entail, to a sister-in-law, she told him: “Les, you’ve been preparing for this job for 30 years.”

The forward-thinking Pajari aims to bring some of the things he learned over more than two decades in professional baseball to the Huskies. Specifically, he mentioned analytics and utilizing all the data that is accessible to build a consistent winner at Wade.

The stadium, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last summer, looks mighty different than it did when Pajari was spectating, playing and coaching there. When it was on the verge of being torn down in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Pajari was co-chairman of the “Save the Wade” committee.

Later in his stint with the Indians, Pajari scouted the Northwoods League extensively. He spoke glowingly of the caliber of baseball that’s played in the 20-team circuit. He’s excited to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

And he’s excited to sleep in his own bed most nights.

Pajari officially left the Indians in November, not long after their gut-wrenching loss to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, in which Cleveland let a 3-1 series lead slip away.

The ending notwithstanding, it was a storybook career for Pajari, whose first boss was Mark Shapiro, current president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Are you kidding me? This rug rat from West Duluth,” Pajari said.