Pirates’ Clint Hurdle appreciates ‘vibe, energy’ of Opening Day
CINCINNATI — Clint Hurdle woke up Thursday morning and made a decision he didn’t regret.
The Pittsburgh Pirates manager walked from his hotel to Great American Ball Park, where his team was preparing to open the season against the Cincinnati Reds.
“I walked over just to get a piece of the vibe, and feel the vibe and the energy,” he said. “It’s special, and it’s significant. I signed more autographs today than I have in a long time, Reds fans and Pirates fans.”
Reds fans — almost all of them wearing bright red jerseys, carrying bright red bags and holding hands with kids wearing bright red caps — were lined up outside restaurants and gift shops at 9:30 a.m., when first pitch was nearly seven hours away.
“There are plenty of arguments this is the best Opening Day in baseball,” said Hurdle, whose team lost 5-3. “The history. I can’t imagine what it was like going down those streets in the ‘70s with the Big Red Machine.”
Cincinnati baseball history goes back to 1869 when the Red Stockings, the first professional team, defeated the Great Westerns of Cincinnati, 45-9, on the way to a 57-0 season.
Hurdle’s history with the Reds goes back to 1982 when he played for the team. He injured an ankle in pregame warm-ups but still threw out the Chicago Cubs’ Billy Buckner twice at home plate that day.
“I didn’t get any hits. My offense went with the ankle,” he said. “My only above-average performance in a Reds uniform that year. I got sent down to the minor leagues 35 at-bats later.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is in town and served as the grand marshal of the parade downtown that kicked off the season. He rode in an open car with Johnny Bench.
“I have been fortunate to experience Opening Days in a lot of our cities,” Manfred said. “I’ve never had one quite like this one. The parade here is really special. It’s a tribute to the fandom here in Cincinnati.”
Hurdle appreciates the pomp and circumstance that surrounds Opening Day, but he also can do the math. It’s only one of 162 games (.6 of 1 percent of the season).
“They’ll say, ‘Play ball’ at some point in time today,” Hurdle said, “and that will be a sigh of relief and also another marker in time that it’s on.
“It’s kind of like Christmas. It will be over, and what’s next? One-hundred and sixty-one more games and, hopefully, more after that.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .