BRADENTON -- When the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Detroit Tigers in Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener, there will be a football theme to the day.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is a big Michigan Wolverines fan, and he's had a connection to the program through former longtime equipment manager Jon Falk.
With that relationship, Hurdle said he's come in contact with every Michigan football coach dating back to when Lloyd Carr was in charge.
And he's been a fan of current head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is bringing the Wolverines to IMG Academy next week for spring football practices to coincide with the school's spring break. One of those practices, slated for Friday, is open to the public starting at 5 p.m.
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"That's Jim's creativity in spreading himself out and having these football practices," Hurdle told the Bradenton Herald following Pittsburgh's workout Friday at Pirates City. "Once they found out they were going to be successful in planning something at IMG, they did reach out to us, Jon on Jim's behalf about hopefully coming over that day, getting their players out to a game. Harbaugh is actually going to coach first base for the Tigers. I told him with his passion for stirring things up, why wouldn't he just half the game coach the game for the Pirates. I don't think that'll fly, but that's right up his alley. I've encouraged him to try and get out early to spend some time with our group and our team before the Tigers get onto the field."
The matchup with the Tigers starts at 1:05 p.m. at McKechnie Field.
"You look in a year and a half, the energy switch that's gone on in Michigan because not only was he the first choice, he was the second choice, the third choice, the fourth choice. I'm not even sure there was another choice," said Hurdle, who was born in Michigan. "So it should be an exciting day for the people at IMG and I'm hopeful that he'll spend the morning with us and share a little bit with our club."
Even through the lean years, Hurdle has always stayed true to his support for UM.
"I'm still excited by Michigan football," he said. "And I've been with them through thick and thin. And the revitalization of last year was fun to watch. I've got the helmet and I support the team."