BRADENTON (93-7 The Fan) – Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sat down with “The Fan Morning Show” at McKechnie Field on Thursday to talk about Spring Training and the upcoming 2016 season, with Grapefruit League play already underway.
Hurdle wasn’t completely disappointed with how the Pirates’ 2015 campaign went, even if it ended with a quick playoff exit.
“We did some things well, sure,” Hurdle said. “I don’t think you can just blow off 98 wins.”
The Pirates sat at home during the NLDS last year while the Cubs and Cardinals went head-to-head and got all the attention. This offseason has been no different, as the budding heavyweight rivalry between those two clubs has been the talk of baseball, while the Pirates have become a relative afterthought.
Much of that stems from the Cubs’ busy offseason, highlighted by major free agent additions and headline after headline that has deemed them a force to be reckoned with in the NL Central, alongside the seemingly-perennial division champion Cardinals.
But, Hurdle believes that the Pirates have built something that the Cubs don’t have, at least yet- a cohesive unit.
“Team beats talent when talent’s not a team, every day in every sport,” Hurdle said. “Happens over and over and over again, but people don’t buy into it, because they see big names, they see big headlines, they see winter happenings, they see Spring Training stuff – the beauty of what everybody gets to do is the games are going to start sooner (rather) than later, then you go about playing the games.”
Hurdle feels that the Pirates have built a solid foundation of success and momentum, and that it’s all substance and no sparkle.
“There’s a huge difference in arrogance and confidence,” Hurdle said. “Huge. We’ve earned our place, in our minds, in the game, and moreso by the respect we’re getting from other clubs, the clientele that now wants to be part of the Pirates. You look at the gravitational pull in so many different areas towards Pittsburgh Pirates now [versus] where we were five years ago. You couldn’t look anybody in the eye and talk about winning a division. You couldn’t look anybody in the eye and talk about having World Series aspirations and mean it.”
“That’s one of the strengths of our club. When [it’s] all said and done, and people are trying to compare, and talking about who did this, our guys believe in what they do, how they do it, and what they want to get done together, collectively. Their connectedness is real and it’s strong…they believe in their abilities. They believe in their talent as a group. And they do not have any intentions of being denied this year.”
The Pirates have certainly built something special over the past few years, and Hurdle relishes the opportunity to share in Pittsburgh’s elation.
“I am so happy for so many different people,” Hurdle said. “That’s joy, for me. To rewind the tape and play it back to where we were in  as an organization, I even went up one day in ’11 and talked to all the season ticket sellers. And I said, ‘Man, you must have the toughest job in Pittsburgh, selling season tickets for the Buccos right now. That’s got to be hard work, man. One of my goals is to make your job a little bit easier.’”
“The joy of the family, the generational family, the joy now of the millennials – because we’ve actually got a group of kids growing up, that all they know about is [the Pirates] win. How different is that than two generations ago? They’re building hotels. There’s new shops and restaurants. It’s a vibrant North Shore area in so many different ways. I look at the Jolly Rogers in the stands…it’s fantastic. So, for me, it’s just joy. The game can bring so much joy to so many different people on so many different levels.”
The interview can be heard here:
“The Fan Morning Show” will be broadcasting live from Pirates spring training in Bradenton all week long.