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Clint Hurdle’s Magic

Over the past few years, Clint Hurdle has earned the title of “managerial miracle worker”. He has consistently shown a knack for taking below average teams and turning them into serious pennant contenders. In 2007, he guided the Colorado Rockies to their only World Series appearance, eventually losing to the Boston Red Sox, and last year he helped the Texas Rangers reach the World Series as their hitting coach. Somehow, Hurdle finds a way to squeeze out the talent from all of his players and infuse them with the confidence to succeed. This season, in perhaps his biggest challenge to date, Hurdle agreed to become the skipper for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that hasn’t had a winning record in 18 years.

Since the start of spring training, Hurdle believed in his players’ potential as well as in his ability to help turn around the franchise. And today, he is only further proving his value as a manager. In addition to compiling a winning record (as of today, 52-47), the Pirates are leading their division. Yes – certainly a miracle worker.

What is Hurdle’s secret? How is he able to create an environment and culture of success? Joe Starkey, columnist for the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review, recently wrote in a CNN article, “{Hurdle} has created an atmosphere equal parts intense and relaxed. On one hand, Hurdle has not been afraid to instill discipline, such as when he benched the team’s best player, McCutchen, for failing to run out a dropped third strike. On the other, players will tell you Hurdle has made the game fun again. They know they won’t be punished for mistakes of aggression, and they know Hurdle’s personality will not change from day to day. He will be energized and approachable. Decades in the game — as a player, coach and manager — have taught Hurdle that a 162-game season is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In leading the Pirates to the best record in the National League’s Central division, Hurdle has infused his team with a perfect blend of accountability and fun that has empowered, inspired, and transformed his team from perennial losers to overachievers.

Hurdle’s attitude and character is reminiscent of a great Jewish king that was similarly able to restore a culture of committed Jewish observance. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people were underachieving, devoid of spirituality and connection to their Creator. Indeed, during the reign of King Achaz, idols were brought into the Temple and the daily service was discontinued. But when Achaz’s son, Chizkiyahu, came to power, he saw the potential for greatness within the Jewish community, and was motivated to bring the people back to their roots. By holding them accountable for their actions and being sensitive to their needs, and while showing an unfailing love for his Jewish heritage and traditions, he managed to completely reform the culture. He cleaned up the mess in the Temple, re-instituted the sacrificial service, and encouraged the masses to return to God. Chizkiyahu created a vibrant and thriving Jewish community of the likes that hadn’t been seen since the times of King Solomon, some two hundred years prior. He took a group of perennial underachieving Jews, turned them into a unified and dedicated nation under God – a nation that he always knew they were capable of becoming.

Let’s hope Hurdle can continue to draw upon his inner Chizkiyahu to keep the Pirates focused on winning the pennant. Perhaps he and his team will give their loyal fans something they haven’t seen since the days of Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke.

Posted in Baseball.

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