WHEELING - The game doesn't know when the game is important.
That was among the messages Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle shared Monday with those in attendance at the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner at Wheeling Park's White Palace, where he served as the event's guest speaker.
Introduced by Robert Nutting, chairman of the Pirates and Pirates Charities, Hurdle, the club's third-year manager, has helped it to a significant turnaround in his first two-plus seasons. On Monday, Hurdle said taking things as they come - playing only against the game and giving each moment equal focus - is what's important.
Representatives of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pirates Charities receive a donation from the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce prior to its annual dinner Monday. Taking part, from left, are Lisa Mullin, chamber vice president of operations; Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle; Erikka Storch, chairwoman of the chamber board; Terry Sterling, chamber president; Robert Nutting, chairman of the Pirates and Pirates Charities; and Perry Nardo, general manager of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
"Why does a player have more pressure in the eighth inning with the runner on second and two outs than he does in the first inning with a runner on second with two outs?" Hurdle asked, making the point that both situations should be treated as equally important. "Shouldn't we have the same mindset throughout the game, where we don't add that pressure like we've done here a little bit too much in the past?
"I think last year our guys got (caught) up in those game-changing moments and the people they were engaged with," he added. "Once we've been able to pull back and just play the game, we're getting better at it. The game doesn't know that the game is important."
It was a small, but significant point in a 23-minute speech that focused heavily on leadership, but also showed a side of Hurdle most fans didn't know. Few areas of his life went untouched during his talk - the good or the bad - because he believes in transparency.
Hurdle has a leadership tool he calls "Three Up, Three Down." He said he uses it in every relationship he has, including those with his children and his fellow coaches. Following that method, he shares three things he thinks a person is doing well, and three areas they might want to improve upon.
"If you're in a leadership position, think about this," Hurdle said. "If it doesn't electrocute you, you're probably in a good place. ... Because if you're truly transparent, your actions will speak louder than your words, and this will bond you with your people better than you've ever been bonded because you have to listen to them, listen to their perspective, and not argue with them about their perspective."
Hurdle recalled words of praise that had been offered for Robert "Scat" Scatterday, who was honored with the Kathy Fortunato Community Service Award during the evening. Scatterday, race director of the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk and Wheeling-Ohio County Rails to Trails project engineer, was universally referred to as an inspiration for the work he does and the person he is.
"It's one of my goals with what I do," Hurdle said, "to try and make a difference somehow, some way in somebody's life today. You never know who that's going to be, so you've got to use your ears and you've got to use your eyes.
"What I've found out at the age of 55 is I don't know it all," he continued. "I don't have all the answers. I need to start using my eyes better, my ears better. I need to start paying attention to the people around me. Listen to other people's perspective. And do one thing at a time. I found out when I multi-task, I'm multi-mediocre.
"Every time I do more than one thing, I'm half good at it. When I take my time to do one thing, I'm at my best."
In other words, he tries to stay in the moment, to keep the game from knowing when the game is important.
The Kathy Fortunato Community Service Award was established by the chamber in Fortunato's honor following her death in 2006.