BRADENTON, Fla. – ENCOURAGE: To give support, confidence or hope to someone.

I met Clint Hurdle, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, last season in Cincinnati. I was there to do some research on a project and snagged a few moments with him in his office before a game.

Del Duduit with Clint Hurdle at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida

We had a good chat about his testimony.

Clint has been through what he describes as “a Christian obstacle course.”

“I’ve been married three times and am a recovering alcoholic,” he told me. “I have a special needs child who is 16, another daughter who is 33 and a son who is 13.”

Clint was accepted at Harvard University, and was offered a scholarship to play football and baseball at Miami University, but opted for the Major Leagues.

Over his 44 years in the MLB as a player and coach, he’s been traded, released and fired.

“I’ve experienced a lot,” he added. “I’ve been to three World Series and have been blessed to manage the past 15-16 years.”

Clint has been all around the MLB. He played for the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals. He coached for the Colorado Rockies and the Texas Rangers before managing the Rockies and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2013, he was named the National League Manager of the Year with Pittsburgh, where he has been the past seven years.

To be a professional baseball player and manager takes talent and has its ups and downs.

But Clint told me his walk with Christ remains “one of the most challenging and yet rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

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He compared his life at one point to the game of golf. “If you can hit the ball 400 yards in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter how far you hit it if it goes out of bounds,” he said. “You have to be lined up right for it to work.”

“I struggled with that for a long
time — but it’s
thy will be done
— not mine.”
Clint Hurdle

Once Clint got his life lined up with God, the birdies and pars followed.

“I have to be aligned with Christ in everything I do,” he said. “My ego is gone, and my life needs to be of service. I struggled with that for a long time – but it’s thy will be done – not mine.”

Before I left the clubhouse, I gave Clint my card and thanked him for his time and openness.

The next day when I was home, I received a text message. “Del, I enjoyed meeting you.  Make a difference today, Love Clint.”

He also followed my blog and is routinely one of the first readers to post a comment (I hope he likes this one too.)

Since that day, I receive a text and an email from him daily with words of encouragement, along with a brief devotional and scripture. Each message always ends the same way: “Make a difference today. Love Clint.”

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
COLOSSIANS 3: 23

In 2009 he started sending a daily group text of encouragement to about 12 of his friends while he worked for Colorado. Two months into the season, he was fired.

The text messages stopped.

A few weeks later, he was on vacation when a person in the text strand sent him a message and asked how he was doing. He replied “okay.” The other person responded and said she was not okay because she had not received his messages of encouragement for six weeks.

“You’d sign your texts with ‘Make a difference today. Love Clint,’ and you’re not making a difference, and I don’t think you love me,” the friend’s message boldly stated.

The next day, Clint started to send the texts again. His messages now touch several thousand a day.

I’m so glad I receive the texts from Clint.

They encourage me. And, once in a while, I’ll send him a text to say “hi,” or “thank you.” He always responds.

A few weeks ago, before I met up with him in Bradenton at a spring training game, I sent a note letting him know I’d like to say hello when I stopped by.

“AOK Del, Godspeed. Love Clint.”

On the right field crosswalk before the Pirates-Red Sox game in Bradenton, Florida

We had a nice conversation, and it was good to connect with him in person again. I’ll be seeing him and his Pirates a few more times during the season this year.

I look forward to our talks, and I am always grateful for his daily messages.

No matter what you have been through in life, you can inspire others and be a witness for God, like Clint does.

He is a constant encourager and is not shy about his devotion to his team and his Savior.

“It’s the strength and hope I have in Christ, and it all comes down to the cross,” he said. “It comes down to a risen savior, and it comes down to me knowing that I am here to serve – not me be served.”

I’m thankful for a Savior, and I’m thankful I have not had to trod through a Christian obstacle course like Clint has done. But I am grateful for his witness and his willingness to portray the Master in such a transparent way. When I face a trial, I’ll try to handle it like Clint does and demonstrate the love of the Lord.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
ROMANS 8: 28

I’m also thankful I have a friend in Pittsburgh who sends me words of encouragement around 6:30 a.m. every day. That means a lot to me.

Clint has inspired me to do better. He does it with his platform as an MLB manager and with his emails and text messages. I try to encourage or inspire with my blog posts and my soon-to-be-released books.

What can you do to encourage? What can you do to inspire? How do you share the love of Christ?

I’ll leave you with his suggestion for each day: “Make a difference today. Love Clint.”

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Del Duduit is an award-winning writer, freelancer, blogger and speaker. He lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, where they attend Rubyville Community Church.