One of the first things said by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was he will focus on during his tenure as skipper will be caring for his players. It sounds simple enough. It sounds like the right thing to say. We heard the phrase used often when we were in the military, only to rarely see it backed up by our leaders. But as it relates to Hurdle and the Bucs, we didn’t think much of it until we witnessed Hurdle in action.
Hurdle and Pirates Bench Coach Jeff Banister were conducting a hitting clinic for youngsters at PirateFest 2011. One fan (wearing the yellow Pirates hat in the video) was asking Hurdle a question while his young son Alex was having a blast running all over the field where Hurdle and Banister stood. Hurdle sprung into action. He looked Alex’s father square in the eye and said:
“Sir, I have a special needs child. May I?”
What Hurdle does next is very cool and very natural for the former Sports Illustrated cover boy:
So how did win starved Pirates fans get the positive and energetic Hurdle as skipper of their club? A pinpoint answer to that question is unclear, but there does seem to be a lot of opinions when we speak with our friends who are Rockies fans. Some interesting things happened while Hurdle managed in Colorado.
A town that seemed to have a love affair with baseball vanished. While Dan O’Dowd was the Colorado GM, the Rockies’ attendance dropped from tops in the league for such a long time to being ranked near the basement. Poor attendance typically translates to little money to invest to improve the roster.
Could Hurdle have a reverse effect for Pittsburgh? Could the fan base grow as Hurdle finds success with his young Pirates team? Hurdle called the Pirates job the greatest in sports. It certainly will be a challenging one.
Some argue that O’Dowd was handcuffed by the ownership of the Monforts, which is a similar argument brought up by the city of Pittsburgh regarding the Nuttings. After many rumors it appears Bob Nutting is here to stay, so let’s trust Hurdle isn’t handcuffed by the Pirates.
The Rockies generally had a poor team for Hurdle to manage. The wins were hard to come by and when the team failed to follow up on its success, Hurdle was shown the door. If it’s all true, it certainly isn’t anything new. It’s not uncommon in MLB for the Manager of the team to be the fall guy for a weak front office constrained by penny-wise owners. In Pittsburgh, Hurdle will have a very young team with a core of talented players, his task–teaching them to win–is as old as the Pirates baseball club itself. But over one hundred years later, it’s still no less challenging–especially in Pittsburgh right now.
Some reports mentioned that some of the Rockies players didn’t care for Hurdle. Maybe that’s another reason Hurdle was fired.
But from our vantage point, it certainly appears that Hurdle cares. He stood behind numerous players this weekend with positive quotes being uttered every time he had a microphone in his hands and even when he was simply talking to fans.
But Clint Hurdle cares for more than just his players, it’s damn obvious he cares for fans too.
Just ask Alex.
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