Bucs skipper Hurdle enjoys sharing success with father
Former player getting a chance to appreciate the moment with dad, also named Clint
PITTSBURGH -- Clinton Merrick Hurdle and Clinton Edwards Hurdle have been given another day to smell the roses. The latest bouquet came from Mike Matheny, when he added the Pirates manager to his All-Star Game staff. So the Clintons, father and son, will be together on another baseball field, reminiscing about where they have been and enjoying where they are.
It has been a challenging and, at times, disappointing journey, but ultimately rewarding for both. At every step of the way, riding shotgun with the son has been the father. Role model, inspiration, coach, batting-practice pitcher and now, vicarious skipper of the Bucs.
Son manages the games. Father relishes the highs, or suffers the consequences.
"These games still wear him out. He agonizes more over the actual game, its gyrations, now than when I played," the son said. "He has a tendency to wear the whole thing."
At the beginning, fathers and sons always bond, often over a patch of backyard grass or a sandlot field. Often, the years drift them apart. Not the Clintons.
Soon after the son won the National League Manager of the Year Award last November, a friend hit him with a simple yet profound question.
"Well, where did it all start?"
And the son's mind drifted back to a recently-transplanted Michigan family's Florida home and said, "Yeah, 51 years ago, this guy grabbed me by the hand and said, 'Let's go play catch.'"
When the 56-year-old son formally accepted the NL Manager of the Year Award in New York, he looked at the 80-year-old father from the dais and said, "This award is my dad's."
"That's what made that night really special," said the son. "He was touched; in a very deep part of his soul, the award had meaning. My dad is from a generation of 'Keep your head down and go hard.' He has gotten so much more transparent over the years with his love for his family and speaking about it. He has gotten to a comfortable place with expressing his love in a fatherly way that's endearing."
The son, who was the heralded athlete and the highest-profile baseball prospect, now is a manager who has guided one team to a World Series and has his sleeves rolled up to repeat with another. But the father is the paragon, no mistake.
The father picked up the family -- wife Louise, 4-year-old Clint, sister Bobbie -- and moved them out of Michigan because he decided being a private investigator wasn't for him, and because a friend had alerted him that jobs were available in Florida, where the youngest child, Robin, would be born. The father entered a field in which he had no background or training -- computers, engineering and programming -- and mastered it.
"He went from a guy who didn't know how to use a computer to being in charge of over 300 people as a senior computer engineer-programmer," the son said. "And he also had time to coach baseball, to be a father, to be husband. He filled up 24 hours as good as any man I've ever come across."
The son's grandfather was a left-handed pitcher who had been offered a pro contract. Then the son's great-grandfather passed away and, as the only boy in the family, the grandfather went to work in a Ford factory at age 16. The son's father was a shortstop at Ferris State University and received a contract offer from the Cubs. Within a week, the father was drafted into the military.
"So I was a third-generation could-be," the son said. "A third-generation maybe. My dad could play. He wouldn't tell me about it, but the people who played with him did -- he was a shortstop with a cannon. He got out there and got after it. He didn't get cheated. Maximum throws all the time, just airing it out. And he wanted his son to have the opportunity he never had."
The father did give that to the son, who was a No. 1 Draft pick in 1975 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated before his first Spring Training with the Royals. Father and son dealt with the vagaries of a 10-year underwhelming playing career, at times the son not dealing with it very well.
And neither enjoyed it. So when life, and baseball, offered its second chance, they shared a vow.
"We didn't appreciate the ride enough," the son said. "We got too results-oriented. When I got into coaching and got back to the Major Leagues, we looked at each other, 'OK, we're going to enjoy this.'"
They were going to smell the roses.
The father, gregarious and a joy to be around, often drops in, here and on the road. Anyone blessed to share their mutual space can feel the father's pride and the son's admiration.
"I'm proud, not just of his baseball, but of him as a father and as a son," the father said. "There's so much more to life than just baseball. He's had a lot of ups and downs, but he's hung in there. You take this and add it with everything else, and you understand that Clint is never a quitter. That's what's gotten him where he's at today."
That -- and a father's guidance.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.