Some are calling it the best story in sports this year. And why not?
For 20 straight seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been losers. The Pirates aren’t merely a franchise that hasn’t won their division, or hasn’t made the playoffs, or hasn’t won a playoff series or hasn’t reached the World Series.
But a franchise that hasn’t won anything, finishing with a losing record each of the last 20 years to claim the dubious record of the longest losing streak by a team in North American pro sports history.
This year looks to be different, though.
The Pirates have held one of the best records in baseball all season and have gone back and forth with the St. Louis Cardinals, vying not only for the top spot in the National League Central but also for the best record in baseball.
And it starts with manager Clint Hurdle.
“Every player is responsible and accountable to represent the name on the front (Pittsburgh) more than on the back,” says Hurdle, who spoke to Sports Spectrum for a story that appeared in this year’s Spring issue. “Don’t take that for granted.”
In his three seasons with Pittsburgh, Hurdle has led the Pirates to three of their best first-half starts since winning the National League East in 1992. And they seem poised to make the playoffs for the first time since then, as well.
Hurdle was recently one of several Pirates to participate in the team’s first Faith Night, on Aug. 1 at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. After the game against St. Louis, Hurdle, and team members Jay Bell, three-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen (who has also been featured in Sports Spectrum), Neil Walker, Michael McKenry, Jose Tabata, Mark Melancon, Charlie Morton and Jeanmar Gomez spoke about their faith. They shared their personal experiences on how their faith had impacted both their lives and their careers in baseball.
Hurdle’s influence, though, isn’t just on the baseball diamond. It’s off the field, as well.
When he advises men, he encourages them to follow his example and asks, “Are you making a difference? Jesus doesn’t want a finished product. He wants to help you become a finished product.”
Even if the Pirates took a nose dive in the standings, ended up with a losing record and missed the playoffs, they already seem to be headed in the right direction—on and off the field.
By Brett Honeycutt
This was published in the August 2013 Sports Spectrum DigiMag. Print and digital subscribers, log in here to view. Not a subscriber to Sports Spectrum? Subscribe here.