PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Pirates accomplished some pretty special things this season and took a giant stride forward in their quest to bring home another World Series title.
The magnitude of what the Pirates accomplished is not lost on National League Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle.
“I’ve had a few of those [moments]. One of them, it’s been well documented, because I had a whole lot of laughs, the champagne explosion.
[The players said] when you threw out that number in Spring Training, we all thought you were drinking again, half of us thought you were drinking again, half of us thought you were crazy, half of us thought you were challenging us, whatever the story was, we’re at 95 [wins] today, get in the middle. We’re going to jam you up with champagne. That was humbling.
The last two weeks, for every 10 people we ran into as a family or myself, nine say thank you to one congratulations. The neatest part is the joy it’s brought so many different people.”
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The champagne moment also raised some questions because of Hurdle’s battle with alcohol in the past. But, Hurdle said that’s in the past and he had no issue partaking in the celebration.
“The players came to me, and said, ‘Hey are you good with this? Because we know you’ve done this a few times.’ And in Colorado, they did the same thing. And [Clint] Barmes kind of gave them the heads up. And in Texas, [Josh Hamilton] and I were both recovering alcoholics and Josh couldn’t get near it. I have no problem being in that environment. I wanted to feel their joy more than anything. It’s not like I’m [going to] go lick my lips and hold my hands out and drink it. It was just a way for me to actually embrace their efforts, their celebration and their joy, and that’s what I used that as, and then you go shower off and you’re good to go,” Hurdle said.
“There’s people out there that every day the first thing in the morning when they wake up, they’re thinking about having a drink. That’s not me. When I smell chicken wings, or I smell a steak, I think of a beer. And I back away from the flame.”
A flame of a different kind burns brightly in one of Hurdle’s star pitchers from this past season. A.J. Burnett, now a free agent, is a fiery competitor, who had several moments of controversy this season, including after he was passed up by Hurdle for Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals.
“A.J. and I have communicated a few times since the end of the season, and we’re giving him time to figure out what he wants to do next. He’s said if he pitches again, he wants to be a Pirate and do it. I think everyone in our organization would love to have him back. I would love to have him back. Wouldn’t it be boring in life if we’re all the same? A.J. and I have a dance we do from time to time, that I hope I can make him better because he’s challenged me to make me better in some areas. We’re very respectful of the importance of the decision we have to make for what’s best for the club, but I’ve never told one of my players, ‘You don’t have a voice, you can’t share your opinion. We can’t disagree,” Hurdle said.
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“At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to agree to disagree on some things and I made a decision that he disagreed with. Does that mean I don’t want him back? No. We’ve had a couple dugout spats, or differences of opinion. That’s life. That’s real life. He’s a 36-year-old man. This isn’t a 21-year-old kid trying to figure some things out. And he is one of the most intense competitors I’ve ever come across. He goes to a place that’s really tough to get him out of. I’m okay with that.”
While it’s always more interesting with him in the clubhouse, would it be calmer without his voice?
“I think what we’ve done as a clubhouse, is we’ve kept things in perspective. If we ever feel that anybody became a distraction, I think there would have to be a sit down time where that was discussed because nobody needs to be a distraction. We don’t want distractions. I’m a firm believer in guys finding themselves and going out and playing as themselves and not playing for anybody else. And he does that and he’s done so much good. There’s a part of all of us that can maybe soften up or change as we get older. Nobody wants to be a grumpy old man, and sometimes people have asked me, is he? No, he’s not. He’s a very competitive older man, on the backside of his career that wants to accomplish some pretty special things in this city and this ballteam has revitalized him and he takes that energy out on the mound and competes,” Hurdle said.
He probably takes some energy from his manager as well. Hurdle is a force of positive energy and humility, which is something KDKA-TV’s Jory Rand felt getting a tour of Hurdle’s home. Despite all the success, Hurdle remains humble.
“I’m in the airport getting ready to leave and I hear my name. Clint,Clint! I turn around, Its Al Kaline two gates away waving to me, calling my name out, whoever I was with is like, are you believing this? This is silly! I mean that’s my boyhood idol, he happened to see me. Yeah, and I’m like stop it Al, stop it. It’s crazy. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been blessed and I don’t ever take anything for granted that happens. Never,” Hurdle said.
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