ShareThis Page

Big leaguers return to their roots

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez talks with Andrew McCutchen in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Marlins on Sunday, July 22, 2012, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez talks with Andrew McCutchen in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Marlins on Sunday, July 22, 2012, at PNC Park.

John Prosperi remembers how excited everyone was when the Pirates came to Altoona in 2000.

The Curve had arrived in Altoona in 1999, and that was a big enough deal even before the major league club came to town for an exhibition game. Prosperi, president of the Curve booster club, still has a picture from that day on his refrigerator.

On Saturday, the Pirates return to Altoona for an exhibition against their Double-A affiliate for the first time since then, and Prosperi said it's far more exciting now.

“So many of the players on the (Pirates) have come through Altoona,” he said. “There's a bond there with these people. I think it's beyond exciting, over the top, really.”

The Pirates' 2012 Opening Day roster featured 10 former Curve players, including Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. The connection between the community and the players who come through Altoona is strong. Players sometimes live with host families.

Members of the booster club not only shuttle players but also their families to and from the airport and provide water and snacks for long bus trips, Prosperi said.

Many still keep in touch with the players after they've moved on.

“I think based on the fact that the thing's been sold out how many months is a tribute to the Pirates but also shows the community support for the game,” Prosperi said. “I can't imagine how people can't be excited. … Unfortunately it's the time of year the weather (will be cold) but I don't think it's going to stop too many people. I think people are really going to be into this.”

Tony Watson, also a Curve alum, said he thinks the game will be a blast.

“I have a lot of good memories there,” he said. “A lot of guys in this clubhouse played there on good teams and had a lot of fun in that stadium. A lot of familiar faces, some of them we saw in spring training. I know they're excited for us to get there.”

Curve general manager Rob Egan said tickets to the game went on sale Dec. 1 and were gone early Dec. 3. With standing-room-only sales, Egan said they are expecting more than 9,500 people to attend. An additional 300 standing-room tickets went on sale Friday morning and quickly sold out.

“We should see this place hold as many people as have ever been here,” Egan said. “It should be the largest crowd ever at this facility.”

The game starts at 2 p.m. and temperatures are expected to be in the upper 40s.

The snow that fell Monday had melted by mid-week, and Egan said they were hoping the field dried a little more before the game.

“If we had to play right now there would only be a couple spots we'd be concerned about,” he said.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.