Family ties: Pirates' dads visit on annual trip

Family ties: Pirates' dads visit on annual trip

WASHINGTON -- Ever since the 1979 Pirates rallied around the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family" on their way to a World Series title, family ties have run deep in Pittsburgh. Maybe that's why the organization has so fervently embraced manager Clint Hurdle's four-year tradition of hosting all his staff and players' fathers for a three-game series during a midsummer trip to a road city.

This weekend, 18 Pirates dads -- of players, coaches, training staff and more -- joined the team for the series in Washington, coming together for a team dinner, spending time in the clubhouse and wearing their custom-made gold Pirates jerseys.

"They get to hang out with their sons for three days, watch them work, have some fun," Hurdle said Friday. "It's an absolute blast for everybody."

Vince Harrison, father of Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison, has participated in the fathers' trip each of the past three years. He said he rarely gets to spend time with his son during the season and cherishes both the interaction with Josh and the bonding with other fathers. Over the years, Vince Harrison has gotten to know other dads like Lorenzo McCutchen and Dave Melancon.

"Even just the dads, we've come to know each other and look forward to it," Vince Harrison said. "It just brings about cohesiveness. You don't have to look at another dad and nod. We engage like our kids engage."

Since its inception in 2013, the fathers' trip tradition has only grown. Hurdle said participation was at an all-time high this year, with dads traveling from all over the country. The fathers enjoy spending time with their sons during a busy season, and the players like letting their dads in on their big league world.

"It's cool to kind of see them go through what we go through on a daily basis, from meetings to swings in the cage before the game, scouting reports," said shortstop Jordy Mercer, whose father, Rick, was along for the third straight year. "It's such a long season, and we travel so much, that to be able to spend a lot of quality time with them these three days, it's really awesome."

Pitcher Gerrit Cole said the fathers' presence brings an extra energy to the club.

"They seem to be really excited, and they seem to have a lot of fun while they're here," Cole said. "So it's always nice to have that positive energy in the club, and then to be able to razz them a little bit or watch them get on their sons, it's a lot of fun."

Of course, the fathers require some looking after. Cole said he spends much of his time during the trip making sure his dad isn't wandering somewhere he isn't supposed to go.

Hurdle, whose father, Clinton, sits with him in his office during the fathers' trip, knocked on wood as he revealed that the team has yet to lose any dads over the four-year history of the tradition.

"It's kind of like revisiting Little League but backwards," Hurdle said. "Because we've got to follow our fathers around, make sure they haven't left stuff behind."

At the end of the day, however, the trip comes back to the theme of that famous 1979 song.

"Always, when you look at an element like a team, you want to look at it like a family," Vince Harrison said. "So it's awesome how Pittsburgh has extended it beyond the players to where families get to know one another as opposed to just the players."

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.