Clint Hurdle may have been named the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year in December, but he was officially awarded the honor Thursday night at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The award was part of the 78th annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction.
Hurdle led the 2013 Pirates to their first winning season and postseason berth since 1992 in his third season on the job. The Pirates have increased their win total each season under Hurdle's guidance, improving from 72 in 2011 to 94 last season.
The team's success last year, guided by the calming influence of the 56-year-old, led to Hurdle being named National League Manager of the Year.
Hurdle's popularity within the clubhouse and throughout the area has been widely commended. There are several popular parody accounts on Twitter.
Pirates owner and chairman Bob Nutting was especially effusive in his praise of the Michigan native, as Dayn Perry of CBS Sports notes:
"Clint's passion is infectious. He challenges everyone around him to push forward and improve a little bit every day. He is a great leader, a great citizen of Pittsburgh, and a tremendous family man and human being. I have the deepest respect for Clint. I have seen firsthand the hard work, commitment and passion that Clint brings every day, not only to our team but also to our community. I am proud to have him as our manager."
Hurdle's "all-in" philosophy and overall attitude was summed up well in Tom Friend's story on ESPN.com in September. Both components were critical in trying to shake the losing mindset the organization had developed during the losing stretch.
Having players like NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, who was awarded the Sportsman of the Year last year, certainly helped Hurdle's case, too, but as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, the changes that he made behind the scenes where just as substantial:
"He removed pitch counts as a consideration for starting pitchers, instead relying on the eye test to determine when to remove them. That way the pitchers would pitch as the situation dictated and not worry about keeping their pitch count low."
A result, direct or indirect of that change, was a top-five pitching staff in MLB in terms of ERA. That staff anchored the team to a 6-2 wild-card win over the Cincinnati Reds and propelled them into Game 5 of the NLDS.
Hurdle joins several Pirates to have been awarded the local honor, including Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner, Danny Murtaugh and McCutchen.
The 2013 season may have been a success in terms of smashing barriers that had existed for decades, but Hurdle is still raising the expectations, as Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com notes. Those goals may still seem far-fetched to some, but before last season, Hurdle set 95 wins as the mark to attain.
"We want to win the division. We want to win the World Series. The football team has won six championships. We want to win six in baseball."