“I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord at the age of 17 and recommitted to Jesus at age 40,” shares Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. “In between was an obstacle course.”
Clint Hurdle came from a blue-collar family with his parents, Clint and Louise, and two sisters, Robin and Bobbi Jo. Church was important to the Hurdles, and the kids attended Sunday school and church services regularly.
Clint, who was the 2013 National League Manager of the Year, was taking the messages from Pastor Len Turner and associate minister, Johnny Faull, seriously. He states, “They were speaking to my heart. They were talking about the need for a Savior and how we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It was all about the relationship of the heart.”
He adds, “At that particular time in my life, it just filled me with a desire to make a commitment to Jesus. I made that commitment at 17 and was baptized shortly thereafter.”
Hurdle was a star athlete at Merritt Island (Florida) High School, participating in baseball, football, and basketball. He passed on a chance to quarterback at the University of Miami when the Kansas City Royals called his number. Clint was drafted in the first round of the 1975 June draft. As he set off on his own, his journey became an obstacle course.
Clint shares, “I went through 23 years of wandering, similar to the Israelites in the desert. I used Jesus as an ATM card. I would not relinquish me. I would continue to find times where I would try to take over or take control.”
In his life’s experiences, professionally and personally, Hurdle got to the point where he “was a 40 year old man who lost his North Star, his direction. There were things that did not work out in my life.”
Some of the obstacles Hurdle had to navigate were two failed marriages, a battle with alcoholism, and a baseball career that did not blossom fully as expected. Then he was confronted with tough love from his wife, Karla (now 15 years), who is a strong Christian woman.
Clint and Karla had been dating eight years, and he had a desire to ask her to marry him. After two failed marriages and other demons he faced, it was a scary thought for Clint. When he finally girded up the courage to ask Karla, she looked him in the eyes and said, “That’s an interesting question.” She did not say yes, but they did have a heartfelt conversation.
Clint tells the story, “Karla said, ‘Clint, there is a wonderful man in there which doesn’t get out enough. Until you can find how you make yourself happy, you will never make me happy. I want you to find a way to make yourself happy.”
Clint’s assessment boiled down to how to be the best person possible for the rest of his life. “I came to the realization I needed to recommit my life to Christ. I needed to finally surrender. I did at age 40.”
It has now been an 18 year walk with the Lord with a little less drama in his life. There were lessons learned, and Clint could understand that “Jesus would never leave, never forsake or flee. Jesus kept His part of the bargain; I did not keep mine.”
Hurdle continues, “Through the Holy Spirit, I had found my way back like the prodigal son. It was the best decision I ever made in my life, and it also led to my recovery with alcohol. Christ has given me the strength, endurance, and courage to live a sober life for the last 16 years. It has been the way it is supposed to be, serving Him.”
Clint’s signature Scripture is second Corinthians 12:9: “Through my weaknesses, His (Christ) strength is glorified.” Clint comments, “Every day, humbly, I ask Him to give me the strength to move forward, to be a simple man in a complex world making a difference in the lives of others. I learned that my actions speak louder than my words. If I truly want to lead, I need to model the behavior I want to instill in others. The behavior model must be Scripturally-based. It is just about being a man of God, being a servant, and having a light that shines.”
The Hurdles are blessed with three children. Son, Christian, is a 10-year-old bundle of energy, and daughter, Madison, is a 13-year-old teenager. Madison is a special needs child with Prater-Willi Syndrome. Clint shares, “After the initial ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth,’ Karla and I realized we were blessed with a wonderful daughter to raise. We have the opportunity to be the national spokespersons for the Prater- Willi Syndrome Association. We share our faith through the association’s events.”
Clint has a daughter, Ashley, who is 30 years old. He has been praying for 15 years that she might turn her life over to Jesus. He shares,
“Ashley accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord recently. My prayer has been answered, and it was one of the best days of my life.”
Clint, who took both the Colorado Rockies and the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series, takes as many opportunities as possible to witness his faith. Recently, the Pirates had their Faith Night at PNC Park through the leadership of Chaplain Brad Henderson. There were 15,000 in attendance where previous attendances were 2,500 in 2013 and 7, 500 in 2014. Clint shared his testimony to climax the evening of sharing.
Pirate’s Chaplain Henderson shares, “I have had the privilege of being around a number of great coaches and managers in over 20 years of sports ministry. Clint stands alone in his ability to integrate his strong personal faith in Christ into his coaching philosophy. He is a man of great devotion to Christ whether he is leading his family or leading his team. Those around Clint clearly know who he is and what he stands for.”
Hurdle, who is closing in on 900 Career Managerial Wins, has been actively involved in sharing at events with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) through ties in Colorado and now in Pennsylvania. He has also been involved with Unlimited Potential Inc. (UPI) here in this country. He is in constant contact with several of the leaders who love Jesus, serves the Lord, and reaches out to help.
John Shelby, a Milwaukee Brewer coach and good friend, comments, “Clint, without a doubt, is a very dedicated, godly man. Everything you hear from him comes from his heart. He is a man who definitely knows the Lord. He understands what it is to stand up as a true man of God. When you meet him and talk with him, you know there is something different about him. That difference is that he is truly a man of God.”
Clint Hurdle is constantly working at being the best manager and leader of men he can be. He and Rod Olson, a Pirate employee who has a ministry called Coaches for Excellence (that is coaching coaches), has put together a blueprint plan regarding leadership. Clint explains, “We put this together with my mission statement that says to lead men to Christ through the game of baseball. I believe the platform here is one of being a Servant. Christ was all about teaching, all about pouring out to others, all about serving. It is all about Thy will, not my will, be done.”
Mickey Weston of UPI comments, “I have known Clint Hurdle now close to 25 years. I had the privilege of playing under Clint in 1993 where he was my minor league manager. We had chapel in his office even though at that time he really did not know Jesus as he knows Jesus now. It has been exciting for me to watch the growth in this man’s life over the last 15 years where he really got to know Christ while managing the Colorado Rockies. It has been an absolute transformation. When I had him as a manager, most of the focus was on him. Now he makes sure the focus is not on him but on others. He is an outstanding leader and manager of people. He is constantly reading to challenge himself, and he desires to make others leaders.”
“Looking back at my family,” shares Hurdle, “my sister, Robin, was the first person who made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ in a strong fashion. Her model behavior, which I admired, dripped off on me. Everyone in my family is now ‘saved.’ Mom and dad committed to Jesus at a later age. Robin committed early and is still the rock in the family. My sister Bobbi Jo committed, and I committed at 17 and recommitted at 40. It just grew.” Clint continues, “I really believe it grew because of my sister, Robin, who demonstrated how to be a Christian and rely on the Lord during the family’s difficult times.”
“I praise and thank the Lord daily for His Mercy and Grace.”
By freelance writer, Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, WI
Photos by Dave Arrigo/Pittsburgh Pirates