It was in November 2010. Having spent 16 years in the Rockies organization as a Minor League hitting instructor, big league coach and then the manager who in 2007 took the franchise to its first World Series, Clint Hurdle had just finished up a season as the hitting coach of
It was in November 2010. Having spent 16 years in the Rockies organization as a Minor League hitting instructor, big league coach and then the manager who in 2007 took the franchise to its first World Series, Clint Hurdle had just finished up a season as the hitting coach of a Rangers team that had made the franchise's World Series debut that October.
Hurdle was a hot commodity on the managerial market. The Mets came calling. So did the Pirates. And there really wasn't much debate on Hurdle's part. He took the Bucs' offer, which wasn't as lucrative as the Mets. He accepted the chance to manage a Pirates team that hadn't had a winning record in 18 years.
"It's just a good fit," Hurdle said.
Hurdle still fits. So do the Pirates. The franchise made things official on Tuesday, when Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington, the man who made the decision to hire Hurdle to manage the Bucs, were both given contract extensions through 2021.
Give Pirates chairman Bob Nutting credit. He was able to see past today, remember yesterday and look forward to tomorrow. Hurdle has his team, which went 78-83 a last season and is 67-72 this year, with 23 games to play.
Instead of throwing his hands up in the air, tearing up whatever has been established in recent years and deciding to overhaul management, Nutting had the ability to look at how Huntington and Hurdle had worked together to create those three postseason teams (2013-15), bringing an end to two decades of losing seasons.
The Pirates do, after all, have a payroll that ranks 25th out of 30 in the big leagues this year, and there is no reason to think they are going to suddenly become big spenders. Pittsburgh is the fourth smallest marketplace in baseball, ahead of only Cincinnati, Kansas City and Milwaukee. The Bucs are a team that has to build to win.
The Pirates rebuilt it in the early 1980s with Jim Leyland. And they did it again earlier in this decade with Hurdle and Huntington.
There is more, however. Like Hurdle said, Pittsburgh is a good fit for him and his family. It's a blue-collar town.
It's a town where Hurdle and his children don't just attend Penguins and Steelers games, but they sit in the seats with the other fans, a part of the atmosphere of a town built around the steel industry.
It's about commitment and hard work. It's what Hurdle is about.
Hurdle has had his moments of fame. At 19, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a hotshot rookie with the Royals, proclaimed the game's next superstar. Hurdle lived a celebrity lifestyle. But he woke up one day and realized his life was empty.
Hurdle stopped drinking alcohol, and he used his public platform to help others, becoming an advocate for Alcoholics Anonymous. When his daughter Madison was born 15 years ago with Prader-Willi syndrome, he didn't try and keep it quiet, taking advantage of his high-profile status to help.
Hurdle and his wife, Karla, were open about their daughter's diagnosis, as he embraced the chance to become a spokesman for Prader-Willi syndrome, spearheading fundraising events around the country.
There's a loyalty about Hurdle that was underscored last month after the death of Don Baylor, who as the manager of the Rockies brought Hurdle back to the big leagues as a hitting coach in Colorado in 1997. When Hurdle later became the manager of the Rockies, Baylor became Hurdle's hitting coach.
Thankful that Baylor came into his life and helped him with his personal battles, Hurdle did everything he could to attend Baylor's funeral in Austin, Texas.
Hurdler flew in on a Thursday night from Detroit, where the Pirates had played that afternoon, and after the funeral on Saturday, he took a night flight to Toronto for not only the final game of the Bucs' three-game series with the Blue Jays, but also a morning fundraiser for Prader-Willi syndrome.
"It's a commitment," Hurdle said.
He could have easily sent flowers or a card to Baylor's widow, Becky, and nobody would have given it a second thought in light of his schedule with the Pirates. That, however, isn't Hurdle's way.
"I owe a lot to the man," said Hurdle. "He gave me a chance as a big league coach. He opened a door for me."
Twenty-one years later, Hurdle is still enjoying that opportunity, having built an impressive career for himself, but always quick to acknowledge the help he received along the way.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.