Clint Hurdle was named the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-November, and ever since then, he's put all of his time, effort and energy into familiarizing himself with the organization and preparing for the 2011 season. Helping him work toward the goal of re-establishing the Bucs as a consistent winner will be bench coach Jeff Banister, hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitching coach Ray Searage, first-base coach Luis Silverio, third-base coach Nick Leyva, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas and Major League coach Mark Strittmatter. Recently, Hurdle participated in a question-and-answer session, which was conducted exclusively for Pirates E-Bucs subscribers and pirates.com visitors.
E-Bucs: What qualities were you looking for while putting your coaching staff together?
Clint Hurdle: Well, we hit the ground running after the press conference and the first task at hand was to put the coaching staff together. The criteria we put our focus on was professionalism, teach ability, respect and accountability. We were looking for guys who are going to energize our players, challenge our players and encourage our players -- and I feel very confident we did that.
E-Bucs: Do the signings of free agents such as first baseman Lyle Overbay, outfielder Matt Diaz, and starting pitchers Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen indicate to you that Pirates officials were serious when they said they're determined to improve the ballclub for 2011?
Clint Hurdle: With everything you do as an organization that's moving forward, you have to have a thought and a plan, you have to have conversations, and at the end of the day your actions have to speak louder than your words. There's definitely some action been taken here, and there will be the rest of the winter. There will be signs and tangible evidence that we're backing up what we were talking about. We have to be creative and we have to be aggressive, and we will be.
E-Bucs: As the new manager here in Pittsburgh, is there a delicate balance between conveying optimism and not promising too much too soon?
Clint Hurdle: I do believe it's an occasion and a time for optimism, but we need to put a foot down and reverse a trend here. We're very mindful of that. There are steps that need to be taken, but it's not okay to just take your time and work through some things. We need to have acute focus, we need to have a plan in place, and we need to play better baseball. We're all going to be graded on how we follow through with that. So we need a commitment from everyone involved to make this happen. We can't just hope for it to happen or say we're going to need some time to make it happen. We need to start to make it happen right now.
E-Bucs: What have you learned as the result of the conversations you've had with the Pirates players so far?
Clint Hurdle: These young men are ready to take another step forward. Last year they got some experience, now it's time to get winning experience. They're committed to getting better and nobody wants to be a weak link. Everybody wants to sacrifice something individually for the betterment of the team. They're all interested in what they can bring to Spring Training to make us better on offense, on defense, in the clubhouse, in the bullpen, in the dugout. I want them to engage with one another and take ownership of the team. Yeah, there's a manager, and yes, there are coaches, but players play the game. They need to be accountable and responsible to each other, as well as to the city that's on the front of that uniform. And that work starts now.
E-Bucs: What's the most important thing a manager can do to help his team achieve success?
Clint Hurdle: No. 1, you lead by example. The players are going to look to my coaching staff and myself for direction and guidance. They're going to look at how we handle our day-to-day activities, how we handle winning, how we handle losing, how we handle adversity, how we handle success. So we need to put a template out there that's consistent, that's full of integrity, that's full of character, and that's full of passion and commitment. And at the same time, we're going to have fun. Everything we do is fun. This is a game you play. I'm not big on talking about working the game. We work in practice and we play the games. That's the way it should be.