Andrew McCutchen and Clint Hurdle's post-season honors ensure the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates will be among the Steel City's baseball golden memories, as if the MVP and NL Coach of the Year awards were needed to highlight Bucs fans recollection.
The honors are well-deserved for two upstanding men of the baseball world.
Hurdle is a baseball journeyman, who has moved through the ranks of management in the minors and majors after his 10-year as a player in the big leagues. He became the Pirates' 39th manager in 2010.
Anyone who has met him recognizes that special spark he provides to others just by his presence.
Add to that baseball savvy, and, with a good roster, you've got the ingredients for a playoff run. Hurdle finally brought Pittsburgh out of two decades of futility to restore the team to postseason hopes. His Bucs finished with 94 regular-season wins. The Pirates were in first or second place from June 21 onward - from a team that struggled for two decades to get 81 wins.
That he has made himself known as a leader off the field including his role as national spokesman for Prader-Willi Syndrome is an added bonus. We think will be among the Bucs' most beloved skippers, right there with Leyland (three times manager of the year as a Buc) and Tanner (who never was manager of the year) someday, if he isn't already.
Hurdle does what the great managers do: Putting the right talent on the field at the right time to make things happen.
And the right talent certainly was led by McCutchen in 2013, who delivered at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths. He hit .317, stole 27 bases, and was ranked among the top center fielders in the league. He legged out more singles into doubles and doubles into triples than any other National Leaguer, according to the statistics.
What the numbers don't record is what a level-headed, likeable young man McCutchen remains, magazine and video-game covers notwithstanding. He remains grounded in himself, in knowing the opportunity before him. He takes care of his body and works out religiously to stay in top form. And he conducts himself as a gentleman of the game, taking time to honor his fans, and to note that a most-valuable player is not valuable without a team around him. He honored his teammates as being as valuable to the Pirates season in his comments on hearing the news of the award.
And he is playing a role in Pittsburgh, founding Cutch's Crew, to help mentor and provide funding for inner-city baseball programs and players. He also is spokesman for Habitat for Humanity of Pittsburgh. He lists future goals for the Pittsburgh area as including coordinating food drives and helping youth achieve educational goals, as well as mentoring at-risk youth and, of course, getting the sixth World Series title for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We join the fans in honoring these two greats of the game and hope for many, many more seasons in the sun in black-and-gold uniforms from both.