Share This Page

Hurdle recalls impromptu BP sessions during '99 Home Run Derby

| Friday, July 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tosses a ball during batting practice Thursday July 5, 2012 at PNC Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Clint Hurdle went to the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park expecting to enjoy some down time. But when Larry Walker asked Hurdle to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby, it turned into as busy a day as any during the year.

Back then, Hurdle was the Colorado Rockies' hitting coach. Walker was putting together a season in which he would hit .379 and win the NL batting title. Hurdle often threw batting practice to Walker, worked with him in the cage and studied his swing on video.

With Hurdle on the mound, Walker seemed a good bet to bash a lot of homers in the Derby.

“Turns out, I'm the only guy who gets Larry out in the first half of the season,” Hurdle said.

Walker only hit two taters and was eliminated in the first round.

In a way, Hurdle was glad Walker was out. Tossing BP in an empty stadium is one thing. Doing it on national TV in front of a packed house in Boston is another. Hurdle's first pitch to Walker bounced about three feet in front of the plate.

“It's a whole different environment. There's 38,000 people,” Hurdle said. “I was thinking, ‘Man, that was something. I'm glad that's over.'”

Except it wasn't. As Hurdle walked off the field, Jeff Bagwell asked if Hurdle could pitch to him. Bagwell hit five homers and qualified for the second round.

Before Hurdle could escape, Jeromy Burnitz cornered him. Hurdle coached Burnitz when they were in the New York Mets' farm system.

“Jeromy's (pitcher) was throwing up; he's having an anxiety attack,” Hurdle said. “He asks, ‘Will you throw to me?' Of course I will. I'd thrown to Burnie his entire adult life.”

Burnitz launched six balls over the wall. Ken Griffey Jr. took note and sent someone from his entourage to beg Hurdle to take the mound for Junior.

“We go to the second round, and I have three of the four guys in the round,” Hurdle said. “I threw to all them. The last two guys? Griffey and Burnitz.”

Griffey beat Burnitz, 3-2, in the final round. Overall, Hurdle served up 38 of the 62 home runs in the competition.

“I threw 180-some pitches,” Hurdle said. “I was there for 2 12 hours! I walked off the mound exhausted and dripping wet.”

Nice way to spend an off day, huh?

“It was silly,” Hurdle said. “It was kind of fun. Obviously, I threw really good BP that day.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.