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Hurdle never tires of Opening Day

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Friday, April 1, 2011
 

CHICAGO — On the first Opening Day in the major leagues, Clint Hurdle stood on a grassy field in Cleveland Stadium and felt ... uncomfortable.

"I have always experienced some anxious anticipation on Opening Day, regardless of the role I had at the time," said Hurdle, who today will manage the Pirates for the first time in their opener against the Chicago Cubs. It will be Hurdle's 20th Opening Day in the big leagues as either a player, coach or manager.

"It's always special, and it always will be," Hurdle said.

On April 8, 1978, and Hurdle was about to embark on his first full season with the Kansas City Royals, who 34 months earlier had made him their first-round draft pick. About a week before spring training ended, the Royals switched Hurdle, then 20 years old, from the outfield to first base.

"I remember I was very uncomfortable," Hurdle said. "It was a big transition for me, so I was just trying to make sure I did what I needed to do."

When manager Whitey Herzog filled out his Opening Day batting order, he put Hurdle in the No. 5 spot behind Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, George Brett and Al Cowens.

"That Opening Day was the culmination of a dream that I had since I was 6, so it probably was the most emotional one of my career," Hurdle said. "I realized all the hard work, all the sacrifice, all the effort had gotten me to that place. It was a day I'll never forget."

Really• How did he do in the game?

"I did start that day, but I don't even remember now," Hurdle said. "I can't remember if I got a hit. I don't know. It's so long ago."

Hurdle paused.

"Obviously, I didn't hit three homers."

Hurdle went hitless in four at-bats in the Royals' 8-5 loss to the Indians. He also went hitless on Opening Day a year later.

Finally, in 1980, Hurdle got his first Opening Day hit, a fourth-inning double off Detroit Tigers righty Jack Morris. It was one of only three hits allowed by Morris, who tossed a complete game.

Hurdle's best Opening Day performance came in 1981, when he went 3 for 4 with a run and one RBI in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore.

Although he played until 1987, Hurdle started just one more season opener, going 0 for 3 for the Reds in 1982.

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