As a part of my job, I work with high school students on a dairy farm. There are a few of us at my school that do this. So from time to time we talk strategy – what works for a particular student, what doesn’t; how to manage some of our own challenges while slogging through massive quantities of manure with large animals. I was talking about this with my co-worker – about how it was hard for me at first to get work done in the midst of a packed herd of cows. I remember the fear of being stepped on and/or shat on. She said that it would be good for me to express these feelings of initial discomfort with our shared student ‘from a man’s perspective.’ I asked for clarity around the ‘man’s perspective’ and she said, ‘you know… <and made her arms look monkey-like and started punching at things>’… which got me thinking about the recent Rumbunter Podcast with Clint Hurdle.
First, an apology… I recognize the fact that I’ve been afforded an opportunity of which many other Pirates fans are far more deserving. I, having only followed this team for a year, just happened to be on the phone when Clint Hurdle called. Lifelong fans would surely offer a lot for this opportunity. But this disgruntled former-Sox fan simply fell into good fortune. And to top that, with the opportunity to chat with the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I only managed a poorly supported comparison between James McDonald and Derek Lowe (and… some real, top-notch nonsense that still has me scratching my head as to what I was trying to say.)
In any case, hearing Clint Hurdle respond to Cocktailsfor2‘s questions opened my eyes further to the perspectives and world view of the Pirates’ field general. Very quickly, it became apparent that ‘what you see is what you get’ with this guy. His post-game comments, dugout demeanor, and news article quotes are the real deal. I admire people like this. I don’t always have an easy time relating to people like this, but I like them.
As Hurdle was talking, I started daydreaming a bit. I thought of him in the clubhouse; on a battlefield; hunting large game. I thought of him playing Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris. And in all venues, I’d have to think he commands respect simply by his presence. He’s one of those people that walks into a room (or patches into your phone conversation) and everything else fades to background.
So then I started to try to reconcile this with his baseball career – his playing days. He was one of those 1st round pick that never quite lived up to his assigned potential. A can’t miss prospect, he flirted with goodness in fits and starts, but ultimately never fully actualized his talent at the Major League level. There are many like him: think Billy Beane or even Steve Lyons. Was he like this back then? Was he always a Man living with Courage and Honesty amongst other Men battling their Human Inadequacies on the baseball diamond? Or was his (relatively) unique life path a game changer for him? Did he cultivate this uncanny blend of integrity, humility, and masculinity under the pressure of high expectations only partially met?
I could probably find some answers (or at least clues) to these questions if I wanted to spend a little more time sifting through the Clint Hurdle hits on Google. But I found some good quotes in this Cardinals blog. And here’s some insight…
“…I have seen too many men enter into these ranks, and I’ve been one of them, that had no joy in their life doing the job that they really thought they wanted to do.”
I wish I had read this before I had that chance to ask him a question or two. Because I would have asked how he felt about his Major League career – did playing baseball bring him joy? I really wonder if the act of playing for Hurdle lost its shine; but the opportunity to help his fellow men make sense of their opportunity, and of their place in the world and in the society of others brought (and brings) him true contentment and fulfillment – something far more valuable to him than simply hitting, catching, and throwing.
Leadership was one of the many themes Hurdle spoke of in this podcast. (Really… If you haven’t listened, just stop reading and click here.) Leadership is clearly something he looks to instill in every one of his players – from the greenest rookie to the most grizzled vet. It’s obvious that he sees individual commitment to leadership as an essential part of successful team. He responded to C42’s questions about the Navy SEALS and Hell’s Angels business with predictable frankness, and with what’s becoming apparent to me, predictable creativity. He mentioned the scenario of handing a newly called-up rookie a Colin Powell book to read on leadership versus hearing real people talk about the experiences and qualities that have enabled them to live remarkable and courageous lives. Leadership isn’t simply a nice theory for Clint Hurdle, he goes to great lengths to cultivate confident, self-directed men for the benefit of the team as a whole.
Yes, leadership is important to Hurdle. For the podcast, he was calling from the instructional league down in Bradenton. Seemingly without a day off, he went to coach and mentor the younger players in the system – presumably on the fundamentals of baseball and the tenets of personal accountability. This is quite consistent with another quote from that same Cardinals piece, “…you have to understand that leadership can never take a day off.”
It’s nice to have a manager that’s committed to a clear path with a clear plan. It’s refreshing to hear the level of dedication to the concept of leadership. At least, that’s my opinion. And the great thing about opinions, according to Clint Hurdle, “everybody gets one; that’s the beauty of it.”