What keeps the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle coming back for more after nearly 50 years in baseball? | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

What keeps the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle coming back for more after nearly 50 years in baseball?

Jerry DiPaola
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watches action from the dugout during a game against the Padres Sunday, June 23, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watches batting practice Tuesday, June 18, 2019, before a game against the Tigers.
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AP
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) goes over ground rules before the Little League Classic baseball game against the Chicago Cubs at Bowman Stadium in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019.
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AP
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sits in the dugout before a game against the Cubs on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.

Clint Hurdle pondered the question, repeated it, then spent almost two minutes answering it.

In a season of turmoil and losing, finally, a topic the Pittsburgh Pirates manager wanted to embrace with both arms.

Before the game with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at PNC Park, Hurdle was told he has appeared in 4,771 major and minor league games as a player and manager (not counting spring training and his eight seasons as a hitting coach). That goes all the way back to 1975 when he was a first-round draft choice (ninth overall) of the Kansas City Royals.

“What was that number again?” Hurdle said, writing it on the calendar on his desk. “Geez, that’s a lot of games.”

The number raises plenty of questions, but the first one is probably the most important, considering the uncertainty surrounding his status with the Pirates.

What brings him back after not missing a professional season for 45 years? Make it nearly a half-century of baseball if you count his time at Merritt Island (Fla.) High School.

“I have a love for the game of baseball,” Hurdle said. “I have a passion for the game of baseball. I loved watching it. I loved playing it. I loved coaching it. I love managing it.”

More importantly, “I also love what it does to other people. It promotes community. It promotes teamwork. It promotes (seeing) families coming out and enjoying the game.”

Hurdle even loves the minutaie of baseball and the fact that there are no shortcuts to success.

“I’ve always liked the fact that there’s no shot clock’ and we’re talking about one (for pitchers),” he said. “You can intentionally walk a guy, but you have to deal with somebody else.”

But everyone has an expiration date — he has repeated that simple bromide many times in his PNC Park office — and his could be approaching. He wants to return and believes that it will happen. But he is 62, one of only eight major-league managers in their 60s:

• One, the Braves’ Brian Snitker, is going to the postseason, although 60-year-old Terry Francona of the Indians has a shot.

• Three are in last place: Hurdle, the Rockies’ Bud Black, and the Tigers’ Ron Gardenhire.

• Ned Yost of the Royals has lost 101 games and is retiring.

• Bruce Bochy, a 25-year managerial veteran with two teams, also is retiring after winning three World Series with the Giants and spending 12 other seasons with the Padres.

• The Cubs’ Joe Maddon might not survive the season after missing the playoffs for the first time in five years.

So far this season, only one manager has been fired: 42-year-old Andy Green by the Padres. There was lots of pressure on Green, whose team signed Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. Hurdle’s situation is different but nearly as tenuous.

Of the 30 managers, 25 were hired within the past five years, which would make Hurdle (if he returns for his 10th sason) the longest-tenured major-league manager with one team. After Bochy retires, he will be second among active managers with 1,267 victories (before Thursday).

To some, age doesn’t matter. The A’s Bob Melvin, 57, has his team atop the American League wild-card standings in his ninth season.

“It’s not so much about the time,” Pirates pitcher Chris Archer said. “It’s how you treat people. I’ve had (young) managers who were great and managers who have been around for almost as long as I’ve been alive who are great, too.”

As for Hurdle, the 31-year-old Archer said, “The experience alone, you respect it immediately.

“He’s encouraged me to be myself the whole time (he has been in Pittsburgh), the good starts, the bad starts, the more meaningful games, the less meaningful games. I really appreciate that.”

Catcher Jacob Stallings said he had a conversation with Hurdle before the game Thursday.

“We talk leadership. He’ll send me texts quite often, inspirational quotes,” he said. “I had a conversation just about leading and sometimes (what) the right ways to go about it are and the wrong ways to go about it are.”

Despite his baseball longevity, Hurdle knew immediately what he would be doing if he wasn’t a manager.

“There’s a good chance I would be volunteering somewhere for people I thought I could help impact and help along the way,” he said. “We’re special-needs parents, and that is a community that could use support and help every day.”

Daughter Madison, 17, was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder. Hurdle is the Prader-Willi national spokesperson.

“What it’s done for our family, it has opened up a world of care from other people,” he said. “They could care less that Maddie’s daddy manages the Pirates. They do things for Maddie because that’s what they do for all kids. You see a compassionate side of life that you don’t normally see.”

The baseball offseason begins Monday, and Hurdle plans to meet with his bosses and players, review the miserable season and, of course, find time for a 20th wedding anniversary celebration with his wife, Karla. They’ll attend the Elton John concert Nov. 13 at PPG Paints Arena.

Will he get good news from Pirates owner Bob Nutting before that?

“He has a guaranteed contract, so we don’t have any reason to think that he’s not (coming back),” Archer said. “The hope in the clubhouse is we just get back on the right track, whatever that is. I think with Clint here it’s possible.”

Stallings said that question is for those team officials above him but said, “I hope so.”

“As baseball players, we operate as how things are until they’re not,” he said. “It doesn’t really do any good to speculate one way or the other. It wastes energy and this job takes a lot of energy.”

Whatever fate awaits Hurdle, he will continue to respect the game.

“You sit back, and you watch talented men play and compete. At the end of the day, somebody wins, and winning matters,” he said.

“That part of it just never gets old for me.

“It’s a game of individual responsibility aimed toward collective gain. That’s what electrocutes me in a good way.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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