Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Note to Self before Clint Hurdle Was a Wise Manager, He Was a Cocky Prospect. the Lessons He Learned in That Time Made Him a Leader

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Note to Self before Clint Hurdle Was a Wise Manager, He Was a Cocky Prospect. the Lessons He Learned in That Time Made Him a Leader

Article excerpt

Clint Hurdle wonders if maybe one day he should write a letter to his younger self. He read one the other day written by Dwight Gooden, a guy who once knocked Hurdle unconscious with a heater to the helmet, and it got him thinking.

There's a lot Hurdle should probably say to his brazen 17-year-old self about what happened between 1975, when the Kansas City Royals drafted him ninth overall, and now. About making the majors and making mistakes. About booze and baseball and becoming a man.

So, he'll begin: Dear Clint.

See, Hurdle at 58 is a curious character study: father to Ashley (30), Maddie (13) and Christian (11); major-league manager; spokesman for Prader-Willi Syndrome Association; 17 years sober. It's the portrait of a good man, and a flawed one. Former teammates say he's a perfect example of learning the hard way.

He often tells players, "Anything you've done wrong, I've done worse, and I've done twice."

Hurdle seems to have a saying for every situation, so maybe that's how he'll start the letter. Here's one: "I believe you're prepared for your future through your past -- if you paid attention to it." And another: "If you have a foot in yesterday and a foot in tomorrow, you take a crap on today."

Which reminds him of a story. Have you heard this one? If you thought the mess Hurdle had to clean up when he joined the Pirates in 2010 was bad, wait until you hear about his first job.

This was back in high school, and Hurdle wanted a summer job that paid better than the 75 cents he got for mowing lawns. His dad, Clint Sr., knew a contractor who needed a couple extra hands. So, Hurdle showed up and discovered the gig was to retrieve portable toilets from construction sites around his hometown and clean them out. Sometimes the hose jammed, and sometimes it leaked. At the end of the day, Hurdle stormed home and asked his dad, "Why didn't you tell me what kind of work it was? Why'd you get me this job? "

"Well, Clint," he replied. "It's the only thing you're qualified to do."

***

One Monday morning in February, three old friends squeeze into a corner booth at a cafe in Merritt Island, Fla., and start swapping stories about Clint Hurdle, whom they've known for decades. They meet every month, this breakfast club, but they don't always talk about Hurdle.

Chuck Goldfarb coached Hurdle at the high school down the road, and Ernie Rosseau coached at the local junior college for 29 years. They both coached the third member of the breakfast club, Peter Kerasotis, a longtime local columnist and sports writer who played high school ball with Hurdle.

If you were to head out the door and left on Courtenay Parkway, they explain, there's Kennedy Space Center, where everyone's dad used to work. In those days, the island was like a college town centered on Cape Canaveral, back before high-rise hotels lined Cocoa Beach and before the rickety hut with eight surfboards for rent became Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest of its kind.

Clint Hurdle Sr. brought his family here from Big Rapids, Mich., in 1960, when "Little Clint" was 3. The Apollo program was just taking off and there was work aplenty in the aerospace boom. Clint Sr. was a drafter, by trade, but lucked into a job at Grumman's computer data systems lab at the space center. He spent 37 years there.

For the Hurdle children, Bobbi and Clint and Robin, launches eventually became routine. They'd watch from the front yard or the school playground and cheer as a rocket rose above the rooftops.

Turn right on Courtenay Parkway and you'll pass the Hurdles' old home, the one with a baseball field behind it and another across the street. When almost everyone was headed to the beach, they'd see the flash of Hurdle's left-handed swing, and there were his mother, Louise, his two sisters and the family dog, Pooh Bear the black poodle, running pell-mell across the outfield, shagging flies for the boy. …

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