Pirates manager Hurdle addresses Franklin Regional's graduating seniors

At Franklin Regional’s baccalaureate service Thursday night, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told graduating seniors to be like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Have you ever run into anyone that you said under your breath, ‘Bless her heart, if she only had a brain’? How many of you said that at PNC Park when I made a pitching change?” Mr. Hurdle said to laughter.

As Dorothy’s journey continued, she acquired more baggage — just as graduating seniors will in life. But she didn’t quit, he said.

She pressed on and helped the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion achieve their goals.

“She transformed them into people they already were inside of themselves,” he said. “She transformed them into leaders of their own.”

The manager spoke to about 500 students and family members who gathered in the Westmoreland County high school’s auditorium for prayer and reflection Wednesday night, two months after a stabbing incident at the school left 20 students and a security guard wounded. All since have recovered.

Mr. Hurdle, who delivered the meditation, made sure they had a few good laughs, too, some at his expense.

He said he wants his own walk-on song that could play when he changed pitchers.

His suggestions? “I’m No Angel” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

Senior Drew Campbell-Amberg, who sang and played an acoustic rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the service, said he appreciated how well-rounded Mr. Hurdle’s speech was.

“There were so many times I leaned forward and thought, ‘That’s so true.’ I connected with almost everything he said,” said Mr. Campbell-Amberg, 18, of Murrysville.

The senior said he moved into the district as an eighth-grader and, though he attended other schools, Franklin Regional was the best he’d ever attended. Mr. Campbell-Amberg will study musical theater at Point Park University after graduation with dreams of performing on Broadway.

Mr. Hurdle took a moment during his speech to recognize the song and told Mr. Campbell-Amberg, “You got three names! You’re going to be famous.”

Graduating sisters Abigail and Alexis Arrigo, both 18 and of Delmont, said they will remember Mr. Hurdle’s message, “God’s got it.” The sisters will attend Westminster College, where Abigail will take pre-veterinarian courses and Alexis will pursue a pre-med track.

Mr. Hurdle told the crowd he’d first heard the phrase “God’s got it” on April 20, 1999 — the day of the Columbine High School massacre.

“All of a sudden out of tragedy, out of a mishap, out of a trial, our God turns them into glory … if we do our part,” he said. “God’s got this.”

Senior — and Pirates fan — David Leftwich said Mr. Hurdle didn’t come across as a professional lecturing them and seemed to really care. Mr. Leftwich, 18, of Murrysville will attend the University of Alabama in the fall to study chemical engineering.

In fact, Mr. Hurdle lingered in the auditorium after the baccalaureate service to meet the graduating class of 2014 and their families. He smiled for pictures, signed programs and shook hands.

Nearby, Mr. Campbell-Amberg’s dad, Pete Amberg, who is visiting from Minnesota, said he appreciated Mr. Hurdle’s messages of “win” and “now” — acronyms for “what’s important now” and “no opportunity wasted.”

“It’s very applicable for this class,” he said.

Of 306 graduating seniors, 295 will participate in commencement services at 6:45 tonight in the stadium at the high school, weather-permitting. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the gym and auditorium.

Assistant superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac declined to say if any students injured in the April 9 knife attack at the high school, including some seniors, attended the Thursday night service.

Earlier this week, Alex Hribal, the 16-year-old accused in the stabbings that left 21 people injured at the high school, waived his preliminary hearing and awaits a July 23 formal arraignment. He has been charged as an adult and faces 21 counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault and a count of having a weapon on school property. He remains in the Westmoreland County juvenile detention center.

Forbes Hospital on May 17 released the final student hospitalized in the rampage.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published June 5, 2014 10:18 PM

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