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Clint Hurdle is aware of the huge challenge he faces: becoming the 39th Pirates manager in history, the fifth straight with a losing record. But he remains positive, and also excited.
“Every one of these players I’m talking to now, externally and internally, I’m reminded there is not a greater sport opportunity available to anybody than rebounding this city with a baseball team,” Hurdle said on Wednesday. “That, to me, is a luxury.”
Since being named as the new Pirates skipper less than a month ago, Hurdle has wasted no time in getting to know the players. In fact, he has either met, or chatted with most of the current players.
“It’s easy for a player to grab and scratch, make an excuse, point the finger somewhere else,” Hurdle said. “I’ve had none of that with one player so far, not one player, not one excuse, not one distraction, not one coaching issue, anything. That has been very energizing.
“My conversation that I’m having right now, that is probably the biggest energizer I’m getting, is listening to the players talk about what they’re doing to prepare, what they’re going to do better for next season and how they’re going to do it together. I think I’m a very fortunate guy to be in the position I’m in it right now with this organization.”
Hurdle has also been spotted at both Steelers and Pens games in the steel city recently. He understands why so many people in Pittsburgh are skeptic of the team and hopes to change things around.
“They don’t want any BS,” Hurdle said. “Tell them the truth. When you’re right, you’re right. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Admit it, don’t repeat it, and learn from it. We want to develop, and it’s already in place in a lot of areas in a no-excuse ball club. Don’t make excuses. I’m the manager — we will not use excuses. We will not use injuries. We’ll play the game. We’ll be respectful of our opponent and respectful of the league. We can’t fear anything. We have to respect everything.
“I truly think the people of Pittsburgh value guys that roll their sleeves up and get some dirt in their cleats and play smart, good baseball and win games. That is the plan.”
Clint Hurdle was formally announced as Pirates Manager on Monday afternoon during a news conference. He is the 39th in the rich history of the Bucs and the fifth in part of the 18 consecutive losing seasons. It’s no shocker that Hurdle has a lot work to do, but he seems to generally believe in the organization, players and the future moving forward.
“This wasn’t about taking a job because it was a sure thing,” Hurdle emphasized. “This was about taking an opportunity that felt sure. And it fit right. I felt comfortable with the people that I was going to be getting after the job with. “There is not a doubt in my mind that this is eventually going to turn. I wanted to get on board now, because I believe this is the time it’s going to start turning.”
“I’m not going to shy away from talking about a championship,” Hurdle said. “I really don’t care what people think. You have a young nucleus of good players that grow up together, they learn together, they stumble together, they fight together, and through it all, they emerge as champions together.
“We’re headed in the right direction. It’s not about taking our time to get there. There’s some urgency.”
The Pirates finished the season with 105 losses as well as last in both pitching and fielding. The organization has discussed adding to the payroll for the 2011 season and that they would be attacking the free agent market.
General Manager confirmed on Monday that after firing John Russell, Hurdle was the guy they had their eye on. He asked around approximately 30 different people on Hurdle’s philosophy and credentials.
“We had been told that he was going to be a remarkable interviewee just because of the presence and the intelligence and the passion,” Huntington said. “But the alignment of where he is philosophically and where we are philosophically was a terrific fit right away.
“He has the ability to help young men grow up and mature and be ready to take the next step, yet he’s also a person that can relate to veteran players and help them get better. He believes in being unified. He believes in cohesion. He believes in a lot of the same things we believe in.”
Hurdle may have gotten fans to like him already. He was in attendance at the Steelers game on Sunday night (where he met Pirates players Neil Walker and Joel Harahan) as well as the Pens game on Monday night.
“I’m going to be upfront. I’m proud to be a Pirate,” Hurdle said. “We’re not going to back down from anybody. We’re going to show up and we’re going to play. Our focus is going to be on a commitment of excellence that is unique and that is real. We’re going to hold ourselves to a very high degree of accountability and responsibility.
“I’m all in.”