Hurdle thrilled to return to Williamsport

Pirates skipper spent time in town as manager in Mets Minors system

August 19th, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle has never been to the Little League World Series, but he has some history in Williamsport, Pa.

More than a quarter century ago, Hurdle managed there. He met his wife in the north central Pennsylvania city, too. So while Hurdle may not have many Little League ties to speak of, the Pirates' involvement in Sunday's MLB Little League Classic at Historic Bowman Field holds special meaning for Hurdle.

"This is a historic event for Major League Baseball," Hurdle said. "This is a celebration of baseball, from my vantage point. You're going back to Williamsport. You're going to play in front of 2,000 Little League kids. I've seen the transformation of that town. I've seen this town grow from that infusion of the Little League World Series, what it's done. I think it's going to be a really exciting time."

In 1991, Hurdle was working his way up the Mets' Minor League system as a manager. Their Double-A affiliate was the Williamsport Bills, an Eastern League club that featured future big leaguers Jeromy Burnitz and Tim Bogar.

Hurdle was at the helm, living about 15 miles north of the city -- in Tom Herr's hunting cabin -- in a small town named Trout Run. But he spent most of his time at Bowman Field. He's excited to see the ballpark, which opened in 1926, after the latest round of renovations.

"It's a really cool rebuild or restoration," Hurdle said. "It's going to have a new life and a new opportunity -- not just for the Short-Season club, but who knows what could be brought in, how that park could be utilized going forward? It is a historic field. It's somewhat of a monument."

Williamsport finished 57-82 that season, the seventh-best club in an eight-team league. What does he remember about that year?

"We weren't very good," Hurdle said, laughing. "We did a lot of coaching and a lot of working that year."

But Double-A was a long way from the Majors, in the sense that teams ride buses around the league. They don't fly in chartered planes, like the one the Pirates will take Sunday morning from Pittsburgh to Williamsport. If nothing else, Hurdle learned to appreciate the scenery.

"There were some really beautiful drives," Hurdle said. "I found myself going, 'Wow, this is what I'm getting out of this summer is the landscape, traveling up through the Poconos, going through Amish country, moving around.' Geographically, it might have been a highlight."

There was another highlight, of course. That summer, Hurdle met an accountant named Karla -- a native of nearby Muncy, Pa. -- at a local sports bar. They married eight years later, in 1999, and now have two children, daughter Madison and son Christian.

Given his personal history and his characteristically positive outlook, it's no surprise to hear Hurdle speak enthusiastically about the one-day trip to play in the very first Little League Classic. Some might complain about the unusual travel, the loss of a home game or potential distractions before a game that matters to both clubs.

Not Hurdle.

"I'm going to enjoy it. I enjoy every day," Hurdle said. "There will be a day where I won't have another day. I'm going to enjoy the opportunity to go there and experience it for the first time.

"The lens in which you view the game, it's going to add to your demeanor for the game, your outlook on the game, your anticipation of the game. This is for the greater good. … It's a time you'll be able to pull some really cool memories from."