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Hurdle reflects on relationship with Aaron

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CHICAGO -- Clint Hurdle was 16 years old when Hank Aaron launched the home run that passed Babe Ruth and disarmed an army of critics.

The Pirates manager does recall listening on the radio in his Florida home when The Hammer pealed against Al Downing, but otherwise couldn't share in the Aaron nostalgia that took over Tuesday, on the 40th anniversary of his milestone.

Hurdle, however, was able to relate to Aaron in a more recent, more meaningful way.

"I've been fortunate enough to have spent three, four events with Hank -- once an entire weekend, at a camp held at Old Dominion," said Hurdle, seated in his Wrigley Field office prior to the start of the series against the Cubs. "I've spent a lot of time talking to the guy about all kinds of things I was never aware of.

"Everybody has heard about the challenges Jackie Robinson went through, and rightfully so. Hank has never been very vocal about it, but he shared a lot of those things. It's incredible what he had to push himself through [27 years after Robinson's breakthrough], and what he had to deal with.

"He's a fantastic guy," Hurdle added of Aaron, with whom he most recently shared the dais at the January awards banquet of the New York Baseball Writers' Association, where the Pittsburgh skipper picked up his 2013 National League Manager of the Year Award. "At that dinner, he challenged everyone to make a donation to the Hall of Fame because of what it stands for. He's a thoughtful man."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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