Hurdle encourages fans to hunt for their treasurePublished Jan 17, 2014 at 7:38 am (Updated Jan 17, 2014 at 7:38 am)
Clint Hurdle signs memorabilia for young Bethel Park baseball fans, who attended an evening with the Pittsburgh Pirates manager.
Clint Hurdle shares a laugh with baseball players Mike Gronsky, Jake Svitek and Carmen Jasante as well as high school principal Jeb Jasante back stage before his inspirational speech to an audience at a Bethel Baseball Association fundraiser.
Clint Hurdle broke no new ground when he delivered an address on his secrets to success at a Bethel Baseball Association fundraiser last week in the high school auditorium. However, nobody but the Pittsburgh Pirates manager painted a clearer picture of what being a winner in life entails.
“Through his stories,” said BPHS principal Jeb Jansante, “(Clint) is talking about real-life lessons. For me, it’s the fiber of what he is about.”
Hurdle is about more than being Major League Baseball’s Manager of the Year for guiding the Pirates to a 94-68 record in 2013 and their first postseason berth since 1992. The Michigan native is a humble husband, proud parent, exemplary employee and a caring coach. Something he stressed that all members in the audience of approximately 500, mostly fathers and sons, can strive to be if they heed his advice and avoid the pitfalls that he made along the way.
“I’m not perfect,” Hurdle admitted immediately. “Ask my wife. Talk to my two ex-wives. I’m a story about reconciliation and redemption and I thank God for second chances.”
And so, in Mark Twain-like fashion, Hurdle begins a soul-bearing tale that so far has spanned 56 years.
From ages 18 to 40, he says, he was that guy who the sun rose and set around; the scholastic all-state and all-American, who could punch his college ticket to either quarterback the University of Miami or sign a contract with Kansas City. Hurdle picked the pros, putting him on a path that led to 10 seasons with the Royals, Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, not to mention his first nugget of knowledge.
“We are shaped for the future through our past if,” he stressed, “we pay attention. People shape you and form you. They can be your mom, your dad, a teacher,” Hurdle told the crowd.”
Sixteen years ago, current wife, Karla, refashioned Hurdle’s life. Of the “smartest person” he knows, Hurdle offered her answer to his initial proposal for his reasoning. Karla’s reply? “That’s an interesting question.” Karla told Clint that he was a good guy, but there’s a great guy trying to get out and that he’d have to work to find that guy and make himself happy or he’ll never be able to make her or anyone else happy. For two years, Hurdle said, he did his homework then proposed again and “got the preferred answer.”
He added, “Karla is a big part of who I am and what I’ve become.”
His children, Ashley, 28, Madison, 11, and Christian, 9, play huge roles in his life as well. Ashley graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara and is employed in business development by San Francisco-based TranscribeMe! Inc. Chris, says Hurdle, retired from baseball at age 4, but relishes the badminton battles with his father in the driveway before school every morning. Madison is a special needs kid. “An angel without wings,” Hurdle dubs her.
Madison was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome. The complex genetic disorder afflicts one in every 12,000 people and is caused by the deletion of part of an individual’s 15th chromosome. Hurdle explained how as an infant they had to keep Maddy wet for her balance but by age 3, “the disease flipped.” Now Maddy is hungry all the time. The disease affects the appetite to the point the person is never full after consuming a meal. Maddy’s condition is a big reason why Hurdle manages the Pirates and not the New York Mets.
“I came to Pittsburgh for all the right reasons. It’s the place best to help my daughter. That’s awesome. How humbling for a father, how challenging,” Hurdle continued. “No amount of money can fix it and I have to trust others to help me do what I can’t.
“This city fits me like a glove. This is where I’ve got to be.”
From 2002 through 2009, Colorado fit Hurdle nicely. As manager, he turned the Rockies into World Series contenders and National League champions for the first time in franchise history. However, two years after winning the 2007 National League’s Manager of the Year distinction, Hurdle was fired. Hired as a hitting coach by Texas in 2009, he helped the Rangers lead the Major Leagues in batting average. In his short term in Pittsburgh, he has turned around the franchise, too.
“You can’t win in Colorado, they told me, because of the altitude. Then they said, ‘you can’t win in Texas because it’s too hot there’. And, ‘you certainly can’t win in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are terrible.’”
Hurdle recalled Pittsburgh being the crown jewel of baseball and the City of Champions in 1979 and scoffed, “twenty years is nothing,” he said of the time the town has endured without a winner. “Heck, it took the Israelites 40 years to reach the Promised Land.”
Last autumn, Pittsburgh reached the Promised Land in baseball by adopting Hurdle’s management style and philosophy. He ascribes to a “Boys-to-Men” theory.
The concept is a big reason why many Bethel Park coaches within the baseball association as well as from the high school hockey program, attended the evening with Hurdle. Jim McVay made attendance mandatory for his players. “We thought it was relevant to what we are trying to accomplish,” said the ice hockey coach. “We are trying to teach life lessons that will help grow our boys into men.”
Hurdle’s ideas are applicable to husbands and parents as well as to his and other teams. Growing boys into men is the job of parents as well, he says.
Hurdle used the playground as a starting block and used the example of getting knocked down as a life lesson in leadership, which is a challenge that can be embraced every day. “If you get punched on the playground, what do you do? Go home and tell your dad? Or do you grow up, punch back and fight your own battle?” Hurdle asked.
Hard work, conviction, commitment and passion also contribute to the maturation process and produce successful people in all walks of life, not just on the playing field. Hurdle says there are no ‘magic seeds’ for success, but hard work plays a part, so does believing in oneself and listening.
“Hold fast to your beliefs. Believe in what you believe in. Do self-evaluation and do the work.
“Educate yourself with your eyes and your ears,” Hurdle continued. “You may not have all the right answers, but open up your ears and listen.
“Plug into what you want. There are things in life that make you happy. Don’t worry about what you don’t have. Appreciate what you do have. Find your passion and chase it. It’s okay to have dreams because when you stop dreaming, that’s when you die.”
Even during the darkest hours, Hurdle never surrendered his hopes for a bright future for Pittsburgh. “When I said that we’d win 95 games, half the people out there thought I started drinking again. But I believed in us.”
For Hurdle, us included everybody in the Pirates’ organization from chairman of the board, Bob Nutting, to general manager, Neal Huntington, to superstars like Andrew McCutchen to rookies like Gerrit Cole. They are the reasons why he will go to New York City to pick up his managerial award. “A coach is only as good as his team, his players, his front office, his assistants. We have guys who pay more attention to the name on the front of the jersey than the name on the back. We’ve rekindled a city with a ball team.
Every day, Hurdle revitalizes thousands of individuals with inspirational messages. When he managed the Rockies, Hurdle started directing emails to preferred players and friends for whom he had great affection. A simple man in a complex world, Hurdle says he is just doing what he can to help others. Each day, he attempts to make someone else’s life a little easier by performing three random acts of kindness without the individual knowing it was Hurdle that completed the task.
“We all love to be loved and we need to be loved,” Hurdle said. “And I tell people each day I love them and I mean it. But, when I lost my job at Colorado, I stopped the emails and my players asked me why I had stopped, if you said you loved us?”
Today, missives that may include words of wisdom from Hurdle, motivational quotes or expressive sayings are delivered to the inboxes of more than 2,000 people. All end with a command to make a difference today and are signed, ‘Love Clint’
As Pirates manager, Hurdle has made a difference, but Hurdle says that people can make a difference, too, if they only adopt the ways of a pirate.
Because there is no rear view mirror on a pirate ship, never look back. A pirate gets on a ship and just sails and hunts for treasure. “I like that,” Hurdle said. “I hope there’s a little Pirate in all of you. I hope you still have a passion to chase your dreams and not focus on the problem, but rather focus on the solution and go for it.”