After a 10-year Major League Baseball career, Clint Hurdle shifted his focus to leading from the dugout where he eventually led the Colorado Rockies to their first World Series appearance before taking over in Pittsburgh. There, he has turned the Pirates into a perennial playoff threat.
But Hurdle’s competitive drive is tempered by a desire live out his faith in a very real and public way. In this CSJ conversation with managing editor Chad Bonham, he talks about his spiritual transformation, dealing with criticism, and the biblical principles that guide his life:
Chad Bonham: Tell me about your spiritual journey.
Clint Hurdle: I went to church from the age of seven and got saved in high school. But for a long time, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ was like an ATM card. A defining moment for me happened around the time I turned 40. I realized that I needed to plug back into his relationship with God if I was going to be the best person, husband, father and friend that I could be. I really give a lot of credit to my wife Carla for pushing me in that direction.
Bonham: What are some biblical principles that guide you as a manager?
Hurdle: Every day, before my feet hit the floor, I just make a commitment that I need to treat people as I would want to be treated. I also know that God doesn’t ask us for many things. Jesus Christ doesn’t make many demands of us. One thing He does ask of us, though, is our faithfulness. He says that if we’re faithful to Him, He’s going to bless us. He doesn’t explain how He’s going to bless us. He just tells us He’s going to bless us. The trust part of that relationship—that unconditional love that He has for us—to me is eye opening, it’s rewarding, it’s challenging. But to truly have a servant’s heart and a servant’s understanding in all that I say and do, not just in my daily life but in the sport that I’m involved with now, those are probably the two staples that I try to commit to every day: My faithfulness and my ability to treat others as I would want to be treated.
Bonham: How do you deal with the constant ups and downs that are inherently attached to the game of baseball?
Hurdle: The challenge for our young people is to realize that life’s not all about you. That’s hard. Young people are going to be concerned with what they’re doing, what they’re wearing, who they’re hanging with, where they’re going. I don’t think it happens overnight. I’ve come to a place in my life that I’ve realized we truly live our best lives when serve others, when we get outside of ourselves. Our baseball team plays its best baseball when we play unselfish baseball. My relationship with my wife is so much better when I serve her. My relationship with my family is better when I put my kids towards the top of my list and I make time for them. I’ve already seen the rewards with my 23-year old daughter by making sacrifices early. There were times when I though I needed to watch a certain TV show because that was my time. Well, once you become a father, once you become a husband, and truly, once you become a Christian, it’s God’s time. I’m here to serve God in whatever capacity He needs to use me each and every day. The ups and the downs are ups and downs. Those are momentary when you line things up against eternity. They often look short when you know you’re being judged from above. It’s not a news journalist. It’s not a TV station. It’s not the fans. I can’t control things outside of my relationship with Christ and the way I treat other people, so the ups and downs that come with the world of sports, you’ve got to let go. You can’t get caught up in it because there are some many things that are out of my control. I just need to stay focused and put my energy into things that I have control over.
Bonham: How do you purposefully use your platform to share God’s love?
Hurdle: There are a lot of tools we have available to us to help share the Gospel with others but nothing will speak louder than our actions. The part about being vocal, that’s a good tool, that’s a good way to go about it. But if you don’t back it up with action, you can pick up the paper everyday and read about people who talk about doing right that don’t do right. Our actions will always speak louder than our words. Your children emulate as soon as they can start walking. They want to put on daddy’s shoes, mommy’s shoes, mom and dad’s clothes. So many people pay much more attention to what people do than to what they say. It’s when the power of the spoken word is backed up by action that it becomes significant.
Bonham: How do you deal with criticism from people who don’t like it when sports and faith are mixed together?
Hurdle: Number one, I don’t get caught up in it. Number two, I love them. And number three, I don’t really care what they have to say. I can’t control it. They don’t know me. It’s their opinion. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion. But I didn’t stand for anything for so long, and now it’s time to stand for something. And I believe in what I stand for with all my heart. That’s what’s important to me. I’m not doing this to get applause or to get a rating in a Gallup poll and find out who agrees with what I’m doing. That’s insignificant.
Bonham: How important is the role of the Church and other Christian organizations as it pertains to things like relationships, accountability and mentoring?
Hurdle: One of the most dangerous situations anybody can run into is isolation. If we want to run remain strong scripturally and spiritually, we need to be plugged into something. Obviously you start with the Bible and God’s Word, but nobody’s going to be able anything and accomplish anything of significance alone. Jesus Himself actually sought out help and developed followers.
Bonham: Why is it so important for you to support organizations such as Baseball Chapel and Fellowship of Christian Athletes?
Hurdle: It’s a way of sharing. It’s a way of being accountable and being responsible. It puts more emphasis on what you say when your actions are backing you up. You’re going out and meeting kids, finding out their needs and where their hearts are and what challenges or problems they have. Things are different for 13 year olds then when I was 13. I need to go out and take the temperature of the different groups in my home church. It’s a strong part of the nurturing of your relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s going to make your active in a lot of different ways. I just don’t think that if you truly develop that relationship with Christ that you can keep quiet about it or that you can sit in your house and not get out. You’re going to be more involved.
Bonham: What’s your favorite scripture?
Hurdle: Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It’s the one that’s become the most fertile and the most meaningful for my soul. It reminds me that with challenge comes opportunity.
(Photos: Keith Allison CC; Arturo Pardavila III CC; John Max Mena CC)