In case you missed it, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Tuesday night that former Colorado Rockies coach and manager has decided to retire from baseball after nearly 45 years in the game. We have decided to give a two-part tribute to the former Rockies coach and manager with the first part looking back on his coaching career.
Former Rockies coach and manager Clint Hurdle was fired from his job as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the final weekend of the 2019 regular season.
Despite being fired, at least originally, Hurdle planned on staying in baseball as he, a former hitting coach, was interviewed by the San Diego Padres to become their hitting coach but instead, he decided to retire from baseball after spending every year in professional baseball since being drafted in 1975.
He spent 16 of those seasons as a member of the Colorado Rockies organization. He came to the Rockies in their second season of existence, in 1994, as the club’s minor league hitting coordinator, where he spent the next three seasons.
Manager and former MLB hitting coach himself, Don Baylor, appointed Hurdle as his hitting coach and first base coach prior to the 1997 season after the dismissal of Ken Griffey, Sr., who only lasted one season, as had each and every other hitting coach in the team’s history (in order, Hurdle’s former teammate with the Kansas City Royals Amos Otis, Dwight Evans, Art Howe (who left to become the manager of the Oakland A’s), and Griffey Sr.).
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Since Baylor was a former hitting coach, he had occasional conflicts with his hitting coaches due to philosophical differences but with Hurdle, he did not have that issue as he praised Hurdle for his approach saying that he was “always positive with (the players), but … truthful too.”.
Even when Don Baylor left, Clint Hurdle stayed on as hitting coach under Jim Leyland entering the 1999 season because, according to Leyland, the players gave Hurdle “great reviews.” He added that “[s]ometimes, when you look around for great coaches, they’re already there.”
He stayed on as hitting coach after Leyland left after one season (1999) and Buddy Bell became the Rockies new manager. After starting off with a disastrous 6-16 record to the 2002 season, Bell was fired. The Rockies decided to hire their hitting coach, Hurdle, as the new manager.
During his five full seasons as a hitting coach, the Rockies hitters (not including pitchers hitting) had an OPS+ above league average in three of the seasons, including back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998. For perspective, the last time a Rockies team did that as a team (not including hitting pitchers) was 2016 and they have not done that in back-to-back seasons since ’97 and ’98.
Also during his time as hitting coach, Larry Walker won the NL MVP award and the Mel Ott Award (NL league leader in home runs) (1997), Todd Helton won Sporting News’ NL Rookie Player of the Year Award (1998), Baseball Digest’s Player of the Year Award (2000), and the Rockies won five Silver Slugger Awards (Todd Helton in 2000 and 2001, pitcher Mike Hampton in 2001, Larry Walker in 1997 and 1999, and Vinny Castilla in 1997 and 1998).
Stay tuned for part two of our tribute to Clint Hurdle tomorrow as we will recollect on his time as manager for the Rockies.