Hurdle, veteran Bucs recall baseball after 9/11

Ramirez, Burnett among 25 current players active at that time

Hurdle, veteran Bucs recall baseball after 9/11

PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle remembers the numbness. He remembers the sense of the unfathomable.

Mostly, however, Hurdle remembers returning to the field on the other side of 9/11.

"For me, the game took on a whole different feeling when we went back to play," the Pirates manager said Friday, a solemn day of remembrance. "It truly became a game again. I'd talked about it being a game, at times I thought it was a game -- but I felt it then more than ever before in my life. And it's been a game ever since."

The solemnity returned to PNC Park on Friday night, as it will forever on the anniversary of the day that changed, and fortified, America.

In addition to joining the rest of MLB in observing moments of silence, the Pirates saluted on the field family members of the heroic victims of United Flight 93. Troy Richard, a cousin of Flight 93 pilot Captain Jason Dahl, threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

On the morning of Sept. 11, Hurdle was in Phoenix with the Rockies, for whom he was serving as hitting coach.

Aramis Ramirez was in his Pittsburgh home as the Pirates' fourth-year third baseman. A.J. Burnett was in Miami, his Florida Marlins preparing to host the Montreal Expos.

Ramirez and Burnett are two of the 25 current Major Leaguers who were active on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It all seemed so unreal," said Burnett. "I remember watching the images, the horror ... a very sad day. Fourteen years ago? Incredible that it's been that long."

Hurdle could never before grasp how his parents must have felt when President Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. On 9/11, he understood.

"They probably looked like what I looked like -- out of place, out of sorts. Disconnected," Hurdle said. "Something wasn't right. I sat on the side of the bed and it was on all the channels on TV. I felt numb, weird. Then the time off, to try to understand what just happened ... overwhelming."

Following a seven-day moratorium, with Commissioner Bud Selig immediately canceling the schedule, baseball came back to life. So did Hurdle.

"My favorite memory is when we started up again," Hurdle said. "The healing ... the therapeutic healing the game was able to bring ... that's what I grab onto every year at this time."

The healing was intense, emotional, also overwhelming. Right down to the end of an unforgettable World Series, when Luis Gonzalez's bloop single off Mariano Rivera scored Jay Bell to give the D-backs a walk-off World Series championship over the Yankees.

Watching that swing from first base was current Brewers manager Craig Counsell -- the Arizona second baseman who had been hit by Rivera's pitch to bring Gonzalez to the plate.

Counsell on 2001 World Series

Five days before Rivera made the last pitch of the 2001 Fall Classic, President Bush had delivered the most unforgettable pitch, prior to Game 3 in Yankee Stadium on Oct. 30.

"[When] the President went on the mound, I think everybody just stopped what they were doing and took a second to soak in the moment," Counsell recalled. "It was a really cool moment. It was a very symbolic moment. It was incredible. Everybody in that stadium had chills."

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.