From the Bus
Richmond, Va. to Reading, Pa. – 257 miles (Travel time: 4 hours, 21 minutes)
Team Movies Watched: 0 (one was attempted but it was either video and no sound or sound and no video)
Broadcaster Movies Watched: 0
Broadcaster Books Started: Inferno by Dan Brown
Hours Slept: 1
A bus ride from Richmond to Reading could be bogged down by lots of traffic since a majority of the trip runs up I-95, which goes by Washington D.C. and swings around Baltimore. Thankfully, we did not hit much traffic at all on our trek to visit Baseballtown for the only time this season. That in itself is a bit of a disappointment because Reading is quite a fun place to come and watch a game with all the hoopla and events surrounding the baseball game.
Our entire squad made the trip over to Baseballtown, including RF Alex Dickerson who was involved in a scary play on Sunday afternoon in Richmond and was diagnosed with a concussion. Alex re-joined the team after the game on Sunday and will be evaluated over the next few days according to manager Carlos Garcia, who spoke to reporters in Richmond concerning Dickerson’s condition after the game.
Also travelling with the trip on the nearly five-hour bus ride was 2012 Curve shortstop Chase d’Arnaud, who joined the Curve on a Major League rehab assignment on Saturday. He played in the game on Sunday afternoon and will be with the Curve for most of the series against the Reading Fightin Phils.
Q&A: How long can one player stay on a “MLB Rehab Assignment?”
Since the Curve have had more than their share of Pirates players on the mend stop by Curve, Pa. for rehab assignments, we figured it might not be a bad idea to throw some facts out there about just how long players can stay on a rehab with any given club.
Firstly, players that are on ML (Major League) rehab assignments with their affiliates do not count against that club’s roster. The Eastern League maximum for players on a given roster at any time is 25. Players that are listed on the disabled list or on a ML rehab assignment do not count against that number.
Now the next question would be, how long can a player stay on a rehab assignment with a given team or, in more general terms, how long can he be on a rehab assignment, period. The answer to that question depends on which position you play. If you are a pitcher, you can spend up to 30 days in the minor leagues on various rehabilitation assignments before your parent club needs to make a decision to activate you. If you are a position player, you are given up to 20 days to spend on rehab assignments in the minor leagues.
There is a nice article that goes much more in depth than this general overview and it can be found here (it’s a bit old but you’ll get the gist of it). It takes into account other things like options, big league service time and more.
Can we still call them the R-Phils?
If you did a double-take when reading the paragraph earlier about the Curve going to play the Fightin Phils it wouldn’t totally be out of the question. That’s because Reading underwent a rebrand in the offseason, well kind of, and changed their team name from the Reading Phillies to the Reading Fightin Phils or if you’re going shorthand, just the Reading Fightins.
As we were on the bus over here, in between falling into a deep sleep and then waking up to read the new Dan Brown book Inferno, I began to wonder if I can still call them the R-Phils. That was the shorthand name for the team prior to this season, which they embraced with a logo and it was even on one of their jerseys. Technically, they are still the R-Phils due to the Phils at the end of the name but it just doesn’t have the same ring anymore.
I’ve decided that in this series (and the subsequent ones) that I’ll try my best NOT to call them the R-Phils.
One final note about this trip here to Reading. I’m quite anxious to see what uniforms the Fightins will be wearing because, quite frankly, they are MiLB’s equivalent of the Oregon Ducks when talking about uniform combinations.
Under the new rebrand, the Fightins have six, yes, six different potential caps that they could wear on any given day depending on if they are home or road. Along with the hat choices, the Fightins have four different jersey options to choose from. Needless to say, the starting pitcher’s decision on which jersey to wear just got a heckuva lot harder.
A few uncategorized tidbits that fit well under this title.
- This might be the best 1-2 hotel trip of the season through Richmond and Reading. I’ve finally been upgraded to “The Tower’ in our hotel in Reading, which I had only heard stories about from others around the league. It’s nice to finally be included in this elite group of individuals that need special keycard entry. Along with this “Tower” room also comes probably the biggest bed I’ve slept in, maybe ever. In my travels through Europe you sleep on what is called a European single, which is smaller than a regular twin bed. I’m pretty sure three or four of these would fit on this bed alone.
- We’ve got a big weekend in store when we get back to Curve, Pa. for Memorial Day with two fireworks shows, a ballpark replica giveaway and some good old fashioned Memorial Day baseball
- I was able to see a very late showing of the new Star Trek while we were in Richmond over the weekend. I thought it was on-par with the first and would recommend for the action-movie enthusiast.
- This new Dan Brown book Inferno is also quite good so far. I was able to burn through about 33 chapters on the way over last night from Richmond. Solid stuff so far and boy that Robert Langdon sure has a rough life sometimes. He and Jack Bauer should swap horror stories. Did anyone else ever want to see an hour of 24, which is returning by the way next year, where Jack just went to the grocery store and bought Life cereal for Kim, went to pick up his dry cleaning, got a Chipotle burrito and then fixed the fence in the yard? Riveting stuff.
With that, this edition of the bus blog is over.
From the Bus
Erie, Pa. to Harrisburg, Pa. – 304 miles (Travel Time: 5 hours, 21 minutes)
Team Movies Watched: 2.5 (Walk the Line, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Wedding Crashers)
Broadcaster Movies Watched: 1 (The Hobbit)
Broadcaster Books Finished: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Hours slept: 1 hour
It’s that time of the season where the bus trips are starting to get a little longer as the Curve went from Erie after today’s game all the way to the capital of the commonwealth, Harrrisburg, Pa. With longer, extended bus rides comes multiple movies and also places to stop while we are in transit. The bus only made one stop yesterday, making a pit stop at the Fullington Bus Depot in State College so we could meet up with our skipper Carlos Garica so he could hop on the bus (he met us in Erie).
I’d never been to a bus depot before, so now I can check that off of my bucket list on places I’d been. It was as I expected it to be. Full of buses, including the GOPSUSports bus that we had the privilege of riding on a few different trips last season. That was a nice bus, we wouldn’t mind having that one again
As for the trip, the Curve have come close the past few days but wound up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in a pair of one-run losses to first-place Erie. Tomorrow it’s back up and at em versus the Harrisburg Senators and the Curve split with the ‘Sens the last time they were at Metro Bank Park. Casey Sadler and Jameson Taillon start the first two games of the series and the two are a combined 2-1 versus the Senators in 2013.
3,000 km to Graceland?
The Curve faced Erie SeaWolves starter Warwick Saupold for the second time this season this past weekend in Erie. Saupold and Curve IF Stefan Welch both hail from Australia but did not grow up as close as one would think. Welch was born in Alice Springs, Australia while Saupold was born in Redcliffe. If you wanted to take a drive between the two cities, you’d have to travel 3,029 km according to Google Maps, or 25 hours of driving. That’s roughly 1,882 miles or the distance you could drive from San Diego, Calif. to somewhere in between Pensacola, Fla. and Jacksonville, Fla. Both play offseason ball in the Australian Baseball League and both were members of the Australian team that participated in this year’s World Baseball Classic.
The Hobbit Review
If you read the above I was able to watch The Hobbit on the way over from Erie while the team watch a trio of different films (they only finished one of the three). I found The Hobbit the film much like the book, and that was, sadly, boring. I remember seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in the theaters in high school and it was so good that I wanted to go and read the books. I burned through the entire trilogy I’d say within a few weeks if not a month. All the movies were great and I own all the extended edition DVDs.
All that said, I tried to pick up The Hobbit (book) numerous times this offseason to read and it was jut so boring. I’d fall asleep, wake up, try to continue and got nowhere. I thought maybe if I watch the movie, now I’ll be jazzed up to go and read the rest. Not the case. I struggled to once again stay awake on the bus while watching. I did finish the movie when we got to our hotel but it was like 2 hours and 49 minutes. Waay too long and it’s only part one.
Special effects were awesome, as to be expected, but I think most can find something better to watch.
Video of the Week
Our video of the week comes to us from the Pittsburgh Pirates because it’s just that super fantastic. Not sure who’s idea it was to go ahead and recreate the title credits from Saturday Night Live for this year’s Pirates lineups but it was a tremendous one and is one of the coolest ways to see a team introduced I’ve seen in quite a long time. Many props to the entire Pirates video department for this idea and for executing it so well with the shots of Pittsburgh in the background, etc. Really Really cool stuff.
I don’t think there is a cooler way we can leave you on this blog post, so we’ll leave it at that.
From the Bus
Richmond, Va. to Curve, Pa. – 271 miles (Travel Time: 4 hours, 13 minutes)
Team Movies Watched: 2 (Slapshot, American Pie 2)
Broadcaster Movies Watched: 0 (it didn’t finish downloading to my iPad before we left #fail)
Broadcaster Books Read: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Hours slept: 1:45
Another 10:30 a.m. day game gone by and another win for the Curve. With the win this afternoon, the team is now 4-2 in six day games played so far in 2013 so it looks like the 2013 Curve like getting a tan while playing ball too. All in all, the Curve went 3-4 on this road trip and now its on home to open up a seven-game homestand on Friday night with Erie.
So as you might have read from above the team watched Slapshot on the bus this time back. Pretty fitting since we’re headed home and the movie takes place just down the road in Johnstown. I’m sure the film resonates a bit more with some of the guys now that they can say they now know where Johnstown, Pa. is and not just a place in a movie.
I was unable to watch the film I had planned to watch on my iPad (The Hobbit) because it didn’t finish downloading at the hotel or at the ballpark before I left. That’s a rookie mistake and I should have started it earlier but the internet wasn’t as good as expected and I was just plain out of luck. I wasn’t really all that interested in watching it anyways but it was something to pass time and it was long so that would have been helpful on the lengthy ride home.
Instead, I picked up my book from earlier this offseason called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it finally began to pick up. Not a whole lot like Water for Elephants, this focuses more on the allure and mystique of a night circus and a game between a pair of contestants involving magic and the circus. Halfway in, it’s getting pretty good. It’s the first book I’ve really picked up since Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was tremendous.
Neglected to mention on the last blog entry was the fact I finally got to go see “42″ when we arrived in Richmond on Sunday night. We rolled in about 9:45 and the last show at the theater started at 10:15 so it was perfect timing for me to walk there and catch the show.
It’s a great film that I think any baseball fan would love and it’s good for the generation who has not heard the Jackie Robinson story told before. Not too overdone, not underdone, I thought it wast just about right. It didn’t end very well, but then again, how do you really end the film because he goes on to play the rest of his career.
Regardless, carve out some time and go check it out.
Finally, Some At-Bat Music!
It’s usually one of our most-read blog posts of the year and we’ve finally been able to go ahead and get most of the team’s at-bat/pitching music together. Even better, we’ve tried to link it up to our site so now you can find the link to the at-bat music throughout the season through AltoonaCurve.com. Players change songs pretty often so we’ll do our best to keep it updated but for now we’ve got most of them. Head on over and check it out!
Odds and Ends
Did anyone pick up the reference to the weird movie about dogs going home in this edition of the bus blog title? Homeward Bound. Very strange film. Here’s the IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107131/
I don’t have any funny videos for you today that I can think of but we’ll see what we can find for the next bus blog.
Homestand starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. with postgame fireworks. After the game, be sure to hit up T.G.I. Friday’s on Plank Road to meet Nate Baker and Jarek Cunningham (scheduled to appear) for the Extra Innings Party. They’ll be there for about an hour signing autographs and hanging out with fans.
Until next time….
From the Bus
Harrisburg, Pa. to Richmond, Va. – 220 miles (travel time 3 hours, 37 minutes)
Team movies watched: 2 (The Sandlot, Lord of War)
Broadcaster movies watched : 1 (This is 40)
Hours slept: 1:20
We find ourselves back on the bus making our way from Harrisburg to the River City, Richmond, Va. to open up a three-game set with the Squirrels beginning Monday at 6:35 p.m. from the concrete behemoth known as The Diamond.
This bus ride feels a bit eerily similar to the last one we took from Altoona to Harrisburg. Charlie Cutler helped the Curve claim a victory with his two-run double in the 11th inning earlier this morning and then the Curve went out and got a solid seven-inning pitching performance to grab a second straight win. This time, the seven innings was from Oklahoma native Casey Sadler, who matched a career-high with his seven frames dealt this afternoon. It was the sixth time in his career (and the second time this season) that he’s dealt six innings.
As it appears we are nearly at our hotel in Richmond, we pass a Wawa and the great debate between Pennsylvanians and other east coasters would ensue…which is better. Sheetz or Wawa? We’ll leave that debate up to you, the readers of this blog and not off any opinions on the matter. However, Sheetz did start in Altoona. Not sayin, just sayin.
It was nice to get out of Harrisburg with a few wins and a series split and even nicer to leave with some solid food. As some may have heard, big leaguers Francisco Liriano and Jose Contreras were in town over the weekend in Harrisburg and when big leaguers come that means super-fantastic postgame spreads.
The team was treated to some Carrabba’s steak and pasta on Friday night and then on Sunday, the team was fed with Outback Steakhouse steak and potatoes. Shoot, even I got some Outback for my bus ride to Richmond! Thanks!
Bus Movie Breakdown
The team watched two very solid movies in the classic film The Sandlot and 2005’s Lord of War with Nicolas Cage. You can’t go wrong with The Sandlot on the bus, especially after a pair of wins. Benny the Jet can inspire anymore and who doesn’t want some smores?
As for Lord of War, it’s been a while since I saw this film and I remembered liking it for the most part when it came out. I did have one problem with it though and that was it was set in the 80s and 90s and at one point in the movie where Nic Cage makes some kind of exchange involving a briefcase full of money, they used NEW $100 bills. I mean, that’s a pretty easy thing to fix and sort out, clean it up. There was also another flaw like this in this film but it escapes me at the moment.
Since I had already watched both films, I watched “This is 40” on my iPad after I woke up from my nap. Quite a funny film Judd Apatow put together as a semi-sequel to Knocked Up. It’s funny throughout most of the film (their kids are hilarious) and even cooler is that there are numerous references to LOST because the daughter in the film is watching it to help her cope with her teenage years. I’d recommend to parents to watch on a Friday night when their kids are already asleep or are at a friend’s house.
Coolest Photo of the Year So Far?
While waiting in the dugout pregame on Friday, it was neat to see a few of the younger Curve players gather around MLB vet Jose Contreras to listen to him tell a few stories. It went on for about 10 minutes or so but it was exactly how players would normally describe it: just soaking up whatever they can from big league guys while they are with you in the minor leagues.
The Worst Baserunning You’ll Ever See
To wrap this blog we’ll leave you with this video and it’s appropriate since we’re going to play a Giants affiliate. I’m not even sure how this got brought up on the bus but as we were making our way to Richmond last night this video was brought up by Gift Ngoepe to show our strength coach Ricky White the example of the worst baserunning you’ll ever see, or at least that’s how it was put by San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller. Growing up in San Francisco, I remember this game and seeing the highlights from 2003 while I was living down south attending school in San Diego.
Miller describes it on point and its quite humorous to watch over and over.
Series starts tomorrow at 6:35
From the Bus
Curve, Pa. to Harrisburg, Pa. – 133 miles (Travel time: 2 hours)
Movies watched: 0
Hours slept: 0:45 minutes
A pair of wins in one day is always nice and it always seems to make a bus ride easier the next day. With the pair of wins on Wednesday, the Curve finished up their first homestand of 2013, 3-4, and also grabbed their first series victory in the process.
Now it’s on to our first visits of the season to the capital of the commonwealth, Harrisburg, Pa., and the River City, Richmond, Va. First up on the trip will be a visit to Harrisburg, which is by far the easiest bus ride in the league since it takes right around two hours. As we roll into the outskirts of the capital, we appear to have some rain in the area so hopefully that clears out before our 7 p.m. game tonight.
For those that do not know, Harrisburg’s stadium, like the one in Curve, Pa., is located right next to an amusement-style park. In this case, it’s actually a part of City Island, where people can come grab some ice cream, play a round of mini golf and explore when the weather is nice. Since it is an island, it has been susceptible to flooding and that hasn’t excluded the stadium as you can see here from the picture below.
This occurred in 2011 and actually forced the Senators, who made the playoffs that year, to play their entire playoff series at Richmond because the field was under water. Richmond wound up winning that series to advance to its first-ever Eastern League Championship but lost in to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Harrisburg’s hotel is not a former factory for Quaker Oats, like in Akron, but is located in a decent area with some decent food options around it pending you arrive when they are open. Last season, came to Harrisburg after playing a day game somewhere else (can’t remember where) and got in just as the T.G.I. Friday’s across the street and the Denny’s next door were closing. Only place open, McDonald’s, and they were also about 10 minutes from closing. Wasn’t exactly fast food because they had to feed nearly an entire team 10 minutes before they were supposed to close, but it worked nonetheless.
I also ventured to see a movie during my last trip to Harrisburg after a day game and then the cab company did not pick up when I left the movie and I had to walk about 1-1.5 miles back to the hotel, so that wasn’t ideal.
At Bat Songs Preview
Our goal for this road trip is to get the Walk-Up music section of the site going and populated with a solid list now that our team has time to pick at bat songs, change them, and pick new ones during the first homestand.
Off the top of my head, here’s what some of them have been using so far in 2013
Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra
Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
Bye Bye Bye – N’Sync
Imagine Dragons – Radioactive
*Editor’s Note – Former Curve RHP Vic Black, who’s now pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis, pegged Imagine Dragons as a breakout artist last season in I’d guess May. He had their EP going in the clubhouse one day and then a few weeks or a month later It’s Time became a chart-topping hit. Solid foresight.
Swedish House Mafia – Don’t You Worry Child
Blackmill – The Drift
We’ll get the full list up sometime before we get the next homestand underway.
Super…almost near the hotel. Need to grab some lunch. It will probably be T.G.I. Friday’s…
Follow us on the road: @AltoonaCurve on both Twitter and Instagram.
Also, since we are on “The Island” tonight and the next three days, be prepared for countless LOST references in the broadcasts when at all possible.
Until next time,
Well, unfortunately we were unable to play the final game of our road trip in Akron due to some extremely wet weather but it did mean we got to jump on the bus back home to Curve, Pa. and get home earlier. We ended up leaving Canal Park a little before 8 last night and got back to the ballpark at roughly 11:20 p.m. It was a lightning-filled bus ride home as we drove through the storm to make it back to Altoona.
Altoona finishes its first roadie 3-3 and as one of the better hitting teams in the league through its first six games of the 2013 season. It’s also been a homer-happy Curve team early on in 2013 with the club mashing seven home runs through six contests. When did the Curve hit their seventh home run in 2012? It came on May 2, 2012 in Erie when Brock Holt connected for a homer at Jerry Uht Park.
One thing that did result from our rainout in Akron is that Casey Sadler will now start tonight’s home opener instead of Jameson Taillon. Taillon is now scheduled to pitch Friday night when three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey visits Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Another fun thing about coming back from a long seven-game trip (other than sleeping in your own bed of course) is that all the cool stuff you ordered while you were on the road is waiting for you at the ballpark when you get back. For the players, it’s always a quick trip up from Spring Training to Altoona and not all of their gear and/or housing furnishings have arrived by the time we kick off the season. So we were greeted by boxes and boxes of cool stuff.
Our manager Carlos Garcia looked like he was greeted by a new driver for his golf game while others had shipments of bats, new mitts, cleats and other game-ready stuff. What did I have waiting for me? A few linen shirts for the summer months plus a new insurance card and a savings bond from 1997. #SliceofLife
Tonight’s home opener begins has an official first pitch of 6:30 p.m. but the pregame festivities will get started a bit earlier as we here at the Curve pay tribute to Robert “Bo” Forney. Forney had been a bat boy with the team since the 2008 season and developed many close relationships with past Curve players as well as the front office staff at the ballpark. There will be a limited number of Bo Forney patches available for sale at tonight’s opener with the Senators. All proceeds from the sale of the patches will benefit the American Heart Association.
Also taking place will be an in-game silent auction of signed, game-used memorabilia from the March 30th Pirates-Curve Exhibition. Bo’s father Ron will throw out the first pitch at tonight’s game while his sister Shannon will be tonight’s Kunzler Honorary Team Captain. A framed bat boy jersey with the Bo patch on the sleeve will also be presented to the Forney family pregame.
New at the Ballpark
If you’re coming on down to tonight’s home opener be sure to check out some of the new things at the ballpark like our new habanero Curve burger, the new MoJo Speed Pitch Machine down near the wall of fame and Sandy Candy Land near the Galliker’s Fun Zone. That’s not all that’s new but just a sliver of new things to try in your visits to Curve, Pa.
It’s nearly 6:30 a.m. and it’s time to finish up the morning news with WTAJ-TV. How about Glenn McComas getting some TV love early this morning with that habanero Curve burger?!!
From the Bus
Erie, Pa. to Akron, Ohio – 125 miles (Travel Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes)
Movies watched: 1 – Life of Pi
Hours slept: :50
That was a tough loss to end the series in Erie but in baseball you must have a short memory as we are hopefully off to bigger and better things as we now go to Akron, Ohio. This trip in to the Rubber City will be the first of three trips the Curve make here in 2013 with the last trip coming just after the Eastern League All-Star Break. We will be staying in a different hotel than in years past when we arrive in Akron so I’ll be curious to see how it compares to the old one. One of the best perks of the last hotel was that you could walk to the ballpark.
Oscar Nod for Move #1
The first bus movie of the year turns out to be one of the best picture nods in “Life of Pi”. I was able to see five of the nine best picture nods prior to actual Oscar Sunday but this was one that I missed. Unfortunately I had work to do on this bus ride over and haven’t paid much attention to the film. Plus, I think it’s one that should be watched on a glamorous 3D, LED HDTV with a tub of popcorn and some sweet tarts, no? Nonetheless, a great choice to get the movie watching on the bus started for the 2013 season.
Familiar Faces in Akron
We leave a few familiar faces in Erie in Ramon Cabrera (2012) and Derek Hankins (2007-2010) and find another tomorrow when we get to Canal Park in 2011-12 Curve outfielder Quincy Latimore. Latimore led the Curve in home runs in each of the past two seasons before an offseason trade swapped him to Cleveland for Jeanmar Gomez, who now is pitching for the Pirates. We’ll try and catch up with the man known as “The Double Deuce” while we are here in Akron this week and play the interview on the broadcast on Friday while we return home to take on Harrisburg in our Tourist Trap segment.
Getting Ready for Opening Day
While I’m out here on the road with the team, the staff back in Curve, Pa. is feverishly working to get all the final preparations set for Thursday night’s home opener with Harrisburg. We’ll be kicking things off early at the ballpark for those that want to tune in as we’ll be live on WTAJ-TV beginning at 5 a.m. with Patrick Schurr and Regina Miller. We’ve had fun with the duo in each of the past three years and we hope to have some fun stuff ready for them when they visit early Thursday morning. Check it out as your eating your breakfast!
Interesting Concession Items from Erie
It’s always a fun time to try out different food items from different places across the Eastern League. I was able to sample one item and leave one on the table for our next trip to Jerry Uht Park. They had mini corn dog bites for sale at the Uht and honestly, I’m a huge fan of a corn dog so I figured these would be good. And, they were. The item I left on the table for our next trip in early May? California-style Garlic Fries. I don’t think there is any way these can be as good as the Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries you get at AT&T Park in San Francisco (see awesomeness below) but I’ll be curious to see how they match up.
Food in Akron
While we are in a different hotel when we arrive in Akron, I am told its still in the downtown area where there are some great places to eat. Most of the guys, coaches and broadcasters (I used to run into former Curve skipper PJ Forbes there all the time) will go to the Diamond Deli, which is just passed Canal Park in downtown Akron. Phenomenal place to go get a sandwich and drink. Other good places to go? The Pita Pit, which is literally across the street from Canal Park. And they have sweet tea.
Hooray, looks like we are here and right on cue, the movie ends. Crazy. Now, where to go for dinner…?
Follow us on the trip @AltoonaCurve on Twitter and on Instagram.
From the Bus
Apirl 4, 2013
Altoona , Pa. to Erie, Pa. – 202 miles
Movies watched: 0
Time slept: 1:15
Welcome to the first edition of what I sincerely hope will be a series of blogs that will all be written on our bus trips throughout the season in an effort to better keep up this blog during the season. Without too much more banter, let’s get right into it:
While all major league teams have opened their 2013 campaign already, Thursday marks the official first day of baseball for MiLB with all full-season teams opening up their seasons across the continental United States. For us with the Curve, we’re opening the season in Erie for the second time in three years and for the fourth straight year with Erie overall.
The team is 6-8 in games all time played on Opening Day and, maybe interesting or not, an Altoona starting pitcher has only been credited with a win on Opening Night just once since the 2004 season. Who did it? Mike Crotta won on Opening Night in 2010 when the Curve bested the Harrisburg Senators at then-known Blair County Ballpark.
Today, Brandon Cumpton gets the starting nod for Altoona after making 27 starts with the Curve in 2012. The Augusta, Ga. native won 12 games for the Curve in 2012, which was the second-highest total in the Eastern League last season and was also 4-2 against the SeaWolves including two wins in Erie.
Now that the team is officially on to open its season in Erie we can take a look back at just how special the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game on Saturday was. There was a franchise-record 10,116 people in attendance at the game and we have a whole bunch of photos to sort through from the day before we post them on the web. If you’re looking for a very nice, in-depth recap of the day with pictures from inside and outside the action, check out Ben Hill’s Ben’s Biz Blog. Hill is a writer for MiLB.com and was gracious enough to visit Curve, Pa. for the exhibition game last Saturday and he detailed his experiences in the fullest in a two-part blog.
While Hill exclusively talks about his time in Altoona in this blog, fans should get it out in general on a weekly basis to see some of the best promotions and stories from around the game of Minor League Baseball.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
With the 25-man roster now set, we can breakdown the roster by geographic region to see just how global a game baseball is. If we look at the Curve 25-man roster and coaching staff to start the season, here’s what we get:
From the United States (by state):
Mel Rojas, Jr.
From the Dominican Republic:
From South Africa:
That’s all for now, tune in to tonight’s game with pregame at 6:05 p.m.
By Rob Egan
Jameson Taillon is part of the “one-two punch” that new Altoona Curve manager Carlos Garcia described this week when talking about the future of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation. The hard-throwing right-hander, who won all three of his starts with the Curve late last season, will return to the Double-A club to begin 2013. He will lead a pitching staff that looks to be the strength of Altoona at the outset of the coming season.
According to Pirates’ Director of Player Development Larry Broadway, Taillon will be joined by newly-acquired Stolmy Pimentel, returnee Tyler Waldron, and Double-A rookie Casey Sadler on the Curve’s starting staff. The fifth starter will likely come from a group that includes Minor League Rule 5 draft pick Ethan Hollingsworth, recently-signed free agent Luis Sanz, and two pitchers who spent the bulk of last year in Bradenton in Jhonathan Ramos and Eliecer Navarro. Of all of the potential starters, six are right-handed, including the four already slotted in the rotation. Ramos and Navarro are the left-handed options.
With just nine days to go before the Curve heads north, Broadway rattled off five relievers that are good bets to be a part of the pitching staff. That list is headed by a member of the Pirates’ 40-man roster, right-hander Hunter Strickland. Fellow right-handers Jeff Inman and Jason Townsend, who, like Strickland, spent time in Altoona in 2012, are expected to be back to begin this campaign. Zach Thornton, a right-hander acquired from Oakland in exchange for Chris Resop in late November, could be the Curve’s closer in 2013 after racking up 16 saves for the Athletics’ high Class A club in Stockton last year. Nathan Baker, who began last year in the Altoona rotation before finding his niche in the bullpen, will give Garcia a left-handed option in relief.
The projected roster of position players will blend a fair amount of speed, a little bit of power, and plenty of versatility. Broadway identified only four players as being “everyday players”. First baseman Alex Dickerson and second baseman Jarek Cunningham will be relied on for extra base hits and RBI, while center fielder Mel Rojas, Jr. and shortstop Gift Ngoepe will keep things moving on the bases. Dickerson, a third-round pick in 2011 out of Indiana, avoided a sophomore season jinx in Bradenton last year by socking 13 home runs, driving in 90, and batting .295 en route to being the first Marauder to earn Florida State League Player of the Year honors. The left-handed hitter also showed a bit of speed with 12 steals for the Marauders.
Cunningham will be looking to improve upon his 2012 stint with the Curve (.217, 6 HR, 45 RBI in 105 games) and provide some right-handed pop in the middle of the order. Rojas, son of the former Major League relief pitcher of the same name, stole 16 bases and rapped 12 triples while patrolling center field in Bradenton last season. Meanwhile, Ngoepe (pronounced en-GO-pay) hails from South Africa, speaks British-accented English, and is noted for his excellent glove work. In 2012 with the Marauders, Ngoepe sported a solid .330 on-base percentage, stole 22 bases, and flashed power with nine home runs. He followed that up with an even better Arizona Fall League performance – hitting .261 and getting on base at a .370 clip.
The other four positions on the diamond aren’t as clear cut at the start of 2013 for Altoona. Carlos Paulino will be one of two catchers to split time with the club. The right-handed hitting backstop was acquired in a 2011 spring training trade from the Marlins in exchange for former Curve infielder Jim Negrych. Paulino hit .251 with four home runs and 35 RBI in 84 games. He will be joined behind the plate in Altoona by either returnee Charlie Cutler (.296, 2 HR, 19 RBI, .407 OBP) or waiver wire pick-up Ali Solis (.283, 6 HR, 40 RBI with Double-A San Antonio in the Padres’ system in ’12).
Third base, right field, and left field will be manned by a collection of players competing for at-bats, said Broadway. Those corner infield/outfield-types will probably consist of Stefan Welch, Oscar Tejeda, Justin Howard, and Dan Grovatt. Andy Vasquez is likely to make the Curve as an outfielder with Carlos Mesa, a Cuban defector, also a possibility for one of those spots. Kelson Brown, who was solid as a reserve third baseman and shortstop in 2012, is trying to win a similar spot on this year’s edition.
While there may be a surprise or two joining the Curve’s 25-man roster before the March 30 exhibition game against the Pirates at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona, Broadway seemed fairly firm on 20 players – nine pitchers and eleven position players. Three of the four pitchers in the running for the final rotation spot will make the club, at least as a long reliever. The last two spots may come down to who will join Paulino at catcher and a reserve infield position.
Former Pirates’ All-Star Second Baseman Carlos Garcia was named the seventh manager in Altoona Curve history back in January. On Monday, eleven days before he and his team will arrive in Altoona, Garcia chatted with me for a few minutes about his time as a player and minor league manager in the Pittsburgh organization.
Egan: You were coming up through the Pirates’ minor league system as a player during the last golden era in the early 1990s. Do you see some similarities in what you saw in the minor leagues then to what you’re seeing now?
Garcia: Definitely. You can see the job the scouting department is doing and the talent they are bringing to the table. Now, it’s for us to develop the talent and put it in Pittsburgh. The greatest years in Pittsburgh haven’t happened yet. These kids have the tremendous potential to become a great team again.
Egan: Everybody’s talking about the fourth and fifth starter here in major league camp because it’s assumed A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald will man the first three spots. The Pirates are hoping two spots will be filled soon by guys named Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Talk about the talents you’ve been able to see from them down here this spring.
Garcia: Tremendous talent. Right now, we’re talking about needing number four and five starters. In the future, (Cole and Taillon) are going to be the one-two punch. They are the faces of the organization and we’re looking forward to them making an impact in the future.
Egan: Stan Kyles joins the organization as pitching coach for the Curve and you know the rest of your staff from working with them before in hitting coach Ryan Long, trainer Mike Zalno, and strength and conditioning coach Ricky White. What are your impressions of them?
Garcia: Kyles brings a lot of experience. He’s a guy who’s been coaching at the Triple-A level and in the big leagues (with the Brewers). I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Long my first year as a manager (in Bradenton in 2011) and I can only say great things about the guy. He works very well with the young players. He’s been doing a tremendous job for the guys who have been in Altoona. Mike Zalno is a veteran of the organization and he does a great job for us. Ricky is a guy we can count on to get the guys in shape to be ready to play.
Egan: Working with the players, do you think it’s important that as a manager you can speak from your own major league experience about what it’s going to take for them to get to that level?
Garcia: Well, they know I’ve been there. They know I did the work to be able to create the opportunity to play at the big league level. They know that I did what it takes on the way there (in the minors) to collect a lot of experience. For me, from past experience as a player, if I had a coach who can share that kind of (major league) experience with me that would be really beneficial in my approach to get to the big leagues. I’m looking forward to showing them the sacrifice and the work they’ve got to put in – day in and day out – to get to the big leagues.
Egan: How has being of Latin American descent helped you in working with players from that part of the world?
Garcia: Definitely, it helps a lot when you have somebody of the same background. The communication barrier is going to be less difficult and I’m happy to help with that.
Egan: On the personal side, what’s your favorite music? What do you like to listen to?
Garcia: I enjoy any type of music. Salsa. Meringue. Where I come from (Venezuela), that something that I really enjoy, too.
Egan: What’s your favorite movie?
Garcia: The Godfather (laughter).
Egan: What was your favorite big league town to visit when you played?
Garcia: I loved New York, but I really enjoyed playing at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That was my favorite place. The fans are really close to the action and interact with the players and the day games definitely helped where you can enjoy the rest of the city after the game. My family, it was one of their favorite trips over there. We had a great time in Chicago.