DENVER -- Tuesday, Aug. 7, was a date weighing heavy on Clint Hurdle's mind as he prepared for the middle game of a three-game set in Colorado. The day marked the one-year anniversary of the death of the Rockies' first manager, Don Baylor, whom Hurdle has called "an inspiration" in the past.
Baylor died at the age of 68 in 2017, following a 14-year battle since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003. He managed the Rockies from their inaugural year in 1993 through 1998 and the Cubs from 2000-2002. After managing, he also coached for the Braves, Mets, Rockies, Mariners, D-backs, and the Angels, his last coaching job, finishing with them in 2015.
"He was the manager that gave me my first Major League coaching opportunity, so I'm forever grateful," Hurdle said before Tuesday's tilt. "There's times, during the season and other times, I remember things he did and things he said that still resonate, have meaning. There's still enough people within the game that I'll see from time to time that we were connected. His spirit lives."
Baylor brought the Rockies to the postseason in their third year of existence, taking the first National League Wild Card berth in 1995. It would be 12 years before the Rockies got back to the postseason, winning the NL pennant under Hurdle in 2007.
"One of the coolest things I was able to do is after we won the championship," Hurdle said. "That year, and he was in another place, but conversations would come up from time to time and he'd follow the team. And the next year, going to the All-Star Game, I reached out to [MLB executive] Katy Feeney. I asked for permission to have Don added to our staff. Just based on my feeling, my appreciation for him. It was able to get worked out.
"One of the coolest things was for Don and I to be able to be back together at the All-Star Game to represent the Rockies in 2008 at Yankee Stadium, the last All-Star Game played there. … I never thought my name would be connected to Don Baylor's in any context, shape, or form. To get a call from him one day and say, 'Hey, yeah, I want you to be my Major League hitting coach,' it's still pretty crazy."
Hurdle credits Baylor with establishing the character of the Colorado club during his early years managing the expansion team, bringing instant credibility to the franchise and instilling his values across the organization.
"Obviously, Don Baylor being the first manager was such a great selection for so many reasons," Hurdle said. "To represent the organization and put his personality and his belief system, a lot of different things he brought to the game, on the organization. They're still highly thought of in a lot of different ways now."