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October 27, 2007

Clint Hurdle


Q. Obviously you want to win the game, but can you just speak a little bit about the significance of this first World Series game in Denver? You've lived in this area for a long time and maybe what it means to the people in Colorado?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, it has special significance, I believe, a number of different reasons. The first World Series in Denver, very appropriate. We've done the Super Bowl thing, we've had a team go to the Super Bowl, we've had a team win the Stanley Cup. This puts a third sport in play as far as playing in the ultimate event.
For me, as much as anything, it gives an entire generation of children a lifelong memory, to start with. And that is probably as gratifying to me as anything that's going to happen here outside of victory that it will give a huge generation of young children, both boys and girls, a date and a place to go back to, and say remember when the World Series was here in '07. And I do think it's added significant value to everything about our organization, and it will help everybody in our organization become better.

Q. The cancer scare of Jon Lester is kind of fresh in everybody's mind, but people might have forgotten Aaron Cook had that potentially life threatening blood clot situation a couple years ago. Could you talk about what he's come back from, and could you talk about the sentimentality of this assignment?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, sentimentality, once we gave him the assignment comes into play, but that could never be a part of it. I had to stay removed from that, and if it was all about sentimentality he would have had pitched in the League Championship Series. We want to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. Aaron Cook have a very special individual, and he has already had a life-changing event. His perspective on life and on sport has been drastically altered because he was in a put in a position where not only was his sport going to be taken away but so was his life. That's one thing I have not had to deal with, is a life changing event where I've had an illness or something like that, so his perspective has changed.
I think it's opened his eyes up to a lot of different things, but also I think it hasn't taken away his aggressiveness, his desire to make pitches, to win games, to be the best pitcher he can be, but I think it's given him a good perspective as he continues to play this game and the importance of also being a father and being a husband and being a teammate, and I'm sure Jon Lester falls into that exact same category.

Q. With your lineup change, what does it do to the dynamic of your lineup, number one; and number two, is it easier to make that change knowing you're in the National League and Willy might get a chance to get in there defensively or to pinch-run later in the game?
CLINT HURDLE: I think you've touched on the latter, definitely comes into play, throughout the course of the game more options come into play in a National League game, more than American League, as far as opportunities to use personnel, whether it be match-up, play defense, pinch-run. The lineup necessitated change.
Willy is not the only guy that has been challenged in the postseason, to the best of your recollection we're revising the lineup that has shown success and had success through the month of September and early in the playoffs. I don't believe you ever want to put a lineup at this point in the season where the guys go, what? We have options, and I'm fortunate as a manager that we have enough good players that it gives me a number of different options, and one thing I didn't want to lose sight of is I tried to draw up with every one of the percentage players involved just to be representative of them to not overlook anything.
But specifically for Game 3, I felt this was the best way for us to attack them to win a ballgame.

Q. Getting back to Lester and Cook, as someone who has seen death up close through Children's Hospital, how much can you appreciate what both of these men have gone through, and is it somewhat ironic that both of them are going head-to-head in the World Series in Game 4?
CLINT HURDLE: I don't think it's a coincidence. I think this game drips with irony at different times for different reasons, and it's not just because of the game or the managers matching pitchers up. I guarantee you Francona wasn't looking for a way to match up Lester with Cook, nor was I, vice versa. But it's happened because it's happened. And I believe in a lot of different venues that God's fingerprints are all over a lot of things if we are able to open our eyes and recognize, whatever faith you have.
And I just think the significance of it is special for every cancer victim that's out there, that there's a battle that can be on your hands but there's a battle that can be fought, and just as importantly there's a battle that could be won. These guys are representative of that, not just the adults but to the children and to all the people and the families of those people that are involved. So it's good, it's real good.

Q. We hear a lot about pitching to contact with your staff, I'm wondering if you can elaborate a little bit on what makes that so important, especially here, with Cook and also Fogg?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, with all our staff, we have just seen over time and history and other organizations will probably tell you the same thing, when you pitch away from the bat, when you're continually trying to pitch away from the barrel of the bat and get swings and misses or make the perfect pitch, more often than not you get into deep counts, you get yourself in positions where you don't want to be on the mound, you put people on base. Nothing worse than a lead-off walk, nothing worse than a two-out walk, nothing worse than back-to-back walks, and one thing off the bat and the inning starts to unravel. We just believe the more options, we're better served with people putting the ball in play, relying on our defense.
One of the things I've actually done is I actually had one of our craftsmen here take the barrel of the bat off the bat and then cut the actual sweet spot of the bat out of the bat. It's about three inches long and it's about an inch and a half wide, and actually there's been spring trainings where I've shown it to the pitchers and said this is where you want to stay away from, it's not the whole bat.
Sometimes your mindset, even your younger kids when they're starting pitching, is to miss the bat. I'm sure there's been some times you look behind at your defense and you think that's appropriate. Not at this level. That's our mindset. We want our pitchers to be aggressive in the zone and just stay away from the barrel. Controlled bat speed is what pitching all comes down to.

Q. Going back to the atmosphere, the last couple days have you been out at all, run into people, and just what sense do you have of the excitement level to be?
CLINT HURDLE: Well, it's as high as I've ever seen it for baseball. Specifically I have Saturday at Starbucks, been having for many months. It's getting very awkward, standing ovations now are the norm, and those weren't there in April, May and June (laughter). Maddie and I drop back an hour and a half maybe trying to trick the crowd. That didn't work. The cul-de-sac I live in, actually when we got back from the Starbucks, they had a tailgate party reminiscent of a Broncos party, where they had Hurdles Homeys t-shirts made up, 30 kids and the barbecue pit going, balloons and streamers. My world, it's past sky-high.
But within the city, everywhere you go. I've tried not to get out too much, but everywhere you go. I mean, the people are on fire. They're happy. They're a little anxious. They want more. They're very thankful for this opportunity to have a World Series. And I mentioned earlier the one positive from the downtime, the eight-day layoff, I think it gave the city of Denver an opportunity to embrace the fact that they were sending a team to the World Series, and that was significant in its own way.

Q. What does Cory Sullivan bring to the lineup that you're hoping he'll bring to the lineup?
CLINT HURDLE: He plays with an edge. His offensive game I thought was rebuilt a little bit this year. He became a lot more disciplined hitter. He opened up the other field, had some gap power. If he gets on, he can sneak a base. He can put the ball on the ground with a bunt, he can do some things offensively, but he's been a disciplined hitter. He can get a walk, just wanted to mix it up a little bit, give him some play. I think the biggest thing for me is he plays with an edge and he plays to win. There's nothing about him that's not out there to win a game, either with the ball or his bat or his legs.

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