The Week in Tweets: April 14-20

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Curve, PA where the Curve are set to start a four-game home series against the Harrisburg Senators, Washington Nationals affiliate.  Don’t forget we’re not just on Twitter but we’re also on Facebook (facebook.com/AltoonaCurveBaseball) and Instagram (@AltoonaCurve). We’re also starting something new this week in our Tweets of the Week blog. Each week we’ll pick one tweet to be our “Tweet of the Week” and if that’s your tweet you’ll win a prize! So keep on tweeting at us throughout the week! (@AltoonaCurve)

Read to the bottom to see if your tweet is this week’s Tweet of the Week.

The week began for the Curve in Harrisburg, where Willy Garcia started off the week with a monster shot.

Who doesn’t love some…

April 15th, the day both MLB and MiLB remembers and celebrates Jackie Robinson, with Jackie Robinson Day.

The only trouble was half of the Pirates organization was rained out as the Indianapolis Indians, West Virginia Power, and the Curve were all postponed due weather. Some smell conspiracy…

The Curve returned to the diamond on the 16th, although diamond could be interchanged with tundra. With the temperatures hovering just above freezing the Curve took the last game of the series with a 5-2 win over the Senators.

We also ran into an old friend…

The Curve then returned to Altoona where they started a home series against the Flying Squirrels from Richmond. To start the series even a Stetson Bomb was a little too late as the Curve dropped the first to the Squirrels.

We had some help for our Sheetz Shuffle on Friday from our good friend Rob Z of Hot 92 and Hot 100.

We’re glad to see our next Tweeter made it out to a game after being stuck at work the week before.

They love things that go BOOOOOOOMMMM here in Curve, Pa. (Fireworks, duh)

Willy Garcia must eat Spinach for every meal.

Saturday we had a special guest to Curve, PA. The one and only Cam Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He joined us for a first pitch, an autograph session, and a meet and greet for some lucky fans.

T-swizzle. Fa shizzle.

And we ended the week with a day off for Easter.

So there you have it folks…our Week in Tweets. Now, to our Tweet of the Week. This was a pretty cool picture from @GageRobley so you’re taking home our first Tweet of the Week prize…which is an Andrew McCutchen Bobblehead from last season! We’ll DM you for how you can pick it up.

Until next week…Keep on Tweeting!

Justin Howard: Back and Better Than Ever

Hi…My Name Is…
1B/OF Justin Howard
6-0 | 205
Born:
 Dallas, Texas
Resides: 
Ennis, Texas
Twitter: @JHowey_11
Stats: http://atmilb.com/1pdQJn1

By Jim Lane

Justin Howard will see some time in the outfield in 2014 (Photo: Kevin Pataky)

Justin Howard will see some time in the outfield in 2014 (Photo: Kevin Pataky)

Justin Howard had an outstanding 2013 season with the Altoona Curve.

He finished with a .314 average in 98 games, collected 89 hits in 283 at-bats, hit eight home runs and drove in 38 runs.

Those numbers put him among the Eastern League leaders. He batted .333 (80-for-240) after June 1, which ranked third in all of Double-A, and the best of any player with at least 70 games played.

Sounds good enough for a promotion to Triple-A, but Howard is back in Altoona for the start of the 2014 season.

“At the beginning of last year, my role was to come off the bench,” Howard said. “I was kind of a secondary guy.

“Then, as guys moved up or got injured, my role changed,” he said. “I was pushed into the starting lineup every day and it was great to come through and have a good season. It was especially good because the Altoona fans always stay behind you.

“It was a lot of fun, a great experience.”

Howard grew up in the football-crazy state of Texas, but decided baseball was his sport at an early age.

“Football is king in Texas,” he said. “The stadiums are great and the crowds are great. I played football in junior high, but gave it up after my freshman year. It’s worked out for me, I think.”

A left-handed hitter and thrower, Howard plays first base and the outfield.

“I actually was known as a pitcher in high school,” he said. “I threw a lot of strikes, but my ball didn’t have much movement.”

So he went to college on his offensive skills. After two years at Navarro Junior College, Howard transferred to the University of New Mexico and he really began to blossom as a hitter.

As a senior at New Mexico, Howard batted .456 with 32 doubles, 10 homers and 72 RBIs in 59 games, leading the nation in hits and batting average most of the season.

He helped lead the Lobos to their first NCAA appearance in 48 years, was named to the Louisville Slugger All-America Team and was selected by the Pirates in the 24th round of the 2010 draft.

He batted .341 in 15 games for the GCL Pirates (Rookie League) and was promoted to West Virginia (low A) in 2011 where he batted .262 in 126 games. He tied for second in the South Atlantic League in doubles and tied for second in walks.

Howard spent 2012 in Bradenton (high A) and batted .283 in 83 games, earning a promotion  to Altoona last season.

He doesn’t mind that he’s beginning the season in Altoona again.

“It’s a trickle-down thing,” Howard said. “It depends on who makes the big-league club and where the need is. I’ll go wherever they want me to go.

“The (Altoona) fans are great. The boosters are great. The front office, from the GM (Rob Egan) down, they’re all are great. It’s awesome. I love Altoona.”

The Week in Tweets: April 7-13

G’day Socialites!

We’re here in Harrisburg waiting to open up a three-game series with the Harrisburg Senators, Double-A affiliates of the Washington Nationals, tonight at 7 p.m. from the iconic City Island. While we get set for tonight’s game, let’s revisit last week with our second Week in Tweets.

We began the week with our first games ever against the newly minted Akron RubberDucks and some of our fans got in on the action (and were also taking advantage of our new Tagboard feature at the ballpark with the #SheetzTag hashtag)

Our catcher Ralph Henriquez celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday…

WTAJ Sports Reporter Jacob Kaucher had to be bored on Monday and found our GM Rob Egan’s film stardom in Major League 3: Back to the Minors and shared it for all the world to see.

Someone at Buffalo Wild Wings then hit the rainout button on Monday night so all the Pirates affiliates could apparently watch the National Title Game…

Nick Kingham got some love from the family on Twitter after his start on Sunday since we were rained out Monday…

Fans in QuAkron are getting excited for our trip there later this month…

We got our first #StetsonBomb of the season on Tuesday night

We then couldn’t resist the Mighty Ducks inspired tweets in our first game with the RubberDucks

Some more props from the fam…

Then we walked it out..

Someone apparently didn’t know we were giving away a Marte Oven Mit…FeDro to the rescue..

Then we put out the first picture of the future giveaway…which people really seemed to enjoy.

The folks from Ward Transport had a good time at the game on Tuesday in our McCartney’s Biz Ball Suite..which is a great place to have meetings BTW…

We offered to write this young lady a doctor’s note to get out of work…

Kaucher is back…Blueberry Bob is bad at racing. This you should know by now Jacob.

Someone caught a pretty neat foul ball

Someone booted up the flux capacitor and went waaay back for this TBT

Then Nick Kingham joined Pirates Pregame when we got to Richmond…

Where we had awesome weather…Light sweater? That’s funny.

Adrian Sampson dealt in his first road test of 2014 and the Curve won on Thursday and then….sang Backstreet?

Looks like we got a verbal commitment from Chris Snusz to suit up in a mascot suit at some point during the UPMC Health Plan All-Star Stop. Maybe he can give Blueberry Bob the power he needs to win.

Our hats are indeed awesome. Thank you kind sir.

We heart flip flops.

And that, folks, is our week in tweets. We’ll see ya next week with a few Easter eggs for ya…

– Mike

Hi…My Name Is Nick Kingham

Hi…My Name Is…
RHP Nick Kingham
6-5 | 227
Born:
Houston, Texas
Resides:
Las Vegas, Nev.
Twitter: @NickKingham
Stats: http://atmilb.com/1ixgtDh

Jim Lane, former Sports Editor for the Altoona Mirror, catches up with a few players each homestand that we have here in Curve, Pa. His first talk of the season was with our scheduled Opening Day starter Nick Kingham, who came into the season ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Pirates’ system according to Baseball America.

Nick Kingham turned in a quality start in his first outing of 2014 on Sunday (Photo: Mark Olson/MiLB.com)

Nick Kingham turned in a quality start in his first outing of 2014 on Sunday (Photo: Mark Olson/MiLB.com)

Nick Kingham is projected as one of the Pirates’ pitching stars of the future. The organization has drafted several pitching prospects in recent years and Kingham is among those at the top of the list.

A right-hander, Kingham has the size (6-5, 227) and is only 22 years old. Ranked as Pittsburgh’s fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, Kingham is considered to have “the best change-up” and “best control” in the system.

Kingham divided the 2013 season between Bradenton (High A) and Altoona (Class AA) and begins 2014 in the Curve’s starting rotation.

“I see myself as a power pitcher, but not overpowering,” Kingham said during a break in spring training at Bradenton, Fla., recently. “I have a decent fastball – about 92 to 94 – but I also like my off-speed stuff.

“I feel it makes my fastball that much better.”

Selected to the Florida State League’s mid-season all-star team, Kingham had a 6-3 record and 3.09 ERA in 13 starts at Bradenton before being promoted to Altoona. He appeared in 14 (12 starts) with the Double-A Curve where he compiled a 3-3 record and 2.70 ERA.

In 143 combined innings between Bradenton and Altoona, Kingham struck out 144 batters and walked only 40.

“The Eastern League is really good,” Kingham said. “There are a lot of nice ballparks. The travel was a little hectic and tiresome at times, but it was good overall and I enjoyed it.”

Kingham didn’t seem to mind the weather in central Pennsylvania, either.

“I grew up in Las Vegas where it was dry and very warm,” Kingham noted. “It was different than here (Florida) and in Altoona where the moisture can get to you.

“(Altoona’s weather) was a little adjustment,” he continued. “I don’t think anybody likes the cold, but you’ve got to remember the other team has to deal with it, too, so you just go out and play your game.”

Born in Houston, Kingham moved to Las Vegas at an early age. He was a standout player at Sierra Vista High School where he earned all-state honors and was ranked among the top players in the nation. He signed a letter of intent with Oregon, but signed with the Pirates when they made him their fourth pick in the 2010 draft.

He made a couple of starts with the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 2010 but had no record. He went 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 15 starts for season-season State College (NY-Penn League) in 2011 then was 6-8 (4.39) ERA in 27 starts at West Virginia (low A) in 2012.

You’d have to say that Kingham is making a steady climb toward the majors, but he’s taking everything in stride.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I just go out and do whatever I can. I just try to play my game because that’s all you can control. I just let everything take care of itself.

“I liked Altoona,” he said. “It was a new experience, new ballpark and I played with guys I had never played with before so it was cool.”

Kingham said he’s never been anything but a starter and he doesn’t see that role changing. As far as when he’ll make the next jump up the ladder, he says he’s not even thinking about that.

“I don’t know what their (Pirates) plan is,” he said. “I’ll just keep doing what I can do and let my work take care of it. That’s all I can worry about.”

 

Check out next week’s Player Profile as Jim sits down with first baseman Justin Howard

 

 

Opening Week In Tweets

Mother nature definitely thew us a couple of Curveballs, pun intended, during Opening Week but we were able to come out on the other side and get three of our four games in. Before we start the second week of the season today and welcome in the RubberDucks of Akron (yep, that’s really their name), let’s take a look at Opening Week in Tweets.

Originally scheduled Opening Day starter Nick Kingham saw we had snow but no worries, that melted in time for the early part of the week.

Steamer then headed on over to WTAJ for a stint on Central, PA Live on Monday and found WTAJ Weather Guru Joe Murgo…and proceeded to take a selfie, which caused some jealousy in the Twittersphere

After that it was on to Media Day, which occurred under decent skies and weather and the first-ever team photo selfie in franchise history

We did actually take a traditional team photo, which was captured here by some of the folks at WJAC-TV

And then this happened….

Fans were pumped for the Opener…

Al Tuna even got up early to hang out with WJAC-TV on Thursday…

But that darn mother nature didn’t let us play it until Saturday. We saw way too much of Tammy the Tarp on Thursday and Friday…

A week on twitter wouldn’t be complete without some Seinfeld references…

We finally got our Opening Day underway with a double on Saturday….

Then had our first Youth Baseball Clinic of the season on Sunday….

And then Nick Kingham & Co. led the Curve to their first win of 2014

We welcomed the 5 millionth fan on Sunday too and even got a shoutout from the 1 millionth fan!

It was a whirlwind week. Now we’re on to week two! Check back next Monday for another Week in Tweets

MyHead

 

Smart Phone App, Alumni Banners and a Look at What’s New in Curve, Pa. in 2014

Smart Phone App, Alumni Banners and a Look at What’s New in Curve, Pa. in 2014

By: Mike Baggerman

 

Thursday is the big day. Baseball is BACK in Curve, Pa. (No, that was not a cheesy slogan we’ve come up with…just pure coincidence). At any rate, Opening Day for the Altoona Curve begins tomorrow when the Curve take on the Erie SeaWolves at 6:30 p.m. at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely attended a game at Peoples Natural Gas Field in the past. We always do our best to provide you fun and family-friendly entertainment for all-ages to enjoy. Adults enjoy the goofy antics that happen in between innings, promotional giveaways, and whatever else entertains you at the stadium. Kids can enjoy seeing their favorite mascots and the joy of a foul ball coming their way (Well…sometimes adults get overzealous over foul balls too). That’s just a small sample of fun things you always expect to see at the stadium.

This season, we’re spicing things up for you. Here’s just a few of the new things going on at the ballpark.

 

VIP PARKING LOT BANNERSphoto 2photo 1

From the moment you arrive at the ballpark, you’ll notice banners in the Alumni VIP Parking lot on the light fixtures that feature a dozen Curve alumni. The alumni range from the recent ones such as Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and the recent-hero Neil Walker all the way to alumni from the early years including Bronson Arroyo, Jose Bautista, Jack Wilson, and more. When you take a look at the banners up close, you’ll see what those guys looked like in their Double-A days (hey, another slogan). The banners were put up in the lot courtesy of Five Star Mitsubishi Altoona.

 

SHEETZ TAGBOARD

Social media has exploded in the past five years and we believe that we need to change with the times also. We’ve adopted Tagboard presented by our friends at Sheetz. Your social media interactions (Tweets, Videos, Pictures, etc.) with us can immediately be posted on our big video board in left-center field as well as our online tagboard. All you have to do is use the hashtag #SheetzTag and it can go up during before, during, or after the game. This is an innovative feature in minor league baseball, we are the ONLY team to provide this experience to the fans.

5 MILLIONTH FAN

This is our 16th season of baseball in Altoona and we love all the support you give us by coming to the ballpark. As of right now, we have had 4,993,495 (Give or take a few thousand that showed up for things like the Pirates-Curve Exhibition game, playoff games, etc) fans visit the stadium. That means that at some point during the first homestand, we will be celebrating the 5 millionth fan coming through the gates. This lucky fan will get free season tickets FOR. LIFE. No gimmicks. FREE. SEASON TICKETS. FOR. LIFE. Plus, if you’re the lucky fan, it includes a trip for two with the Altoona Curve Booster Club to Pirates’ Spring Training in 2015, a team jersey with your name on the back, an honorary captainship on the Alumni team during the Curve, Pa. Heroes Game as part of the E.L. All-Star Stop presented by UPMC Health Plan, and a Five Millionth Fan parking space in the VIP parking lot at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

MiLB IN THE PARK APP

We’ve made your life a lot easier. With this smartphone app, you almost never need to leave your seat. Buy tickets, sign up for on-field games, see promotional giveaways, get on Tagboard, and more. Visit your app store and download “MiLB In The Park”.

The new "MiLB In The Park" app gives fans the most interactive experience yet.

The new “MiLB In The Park” app gives fans the most interactive experience yet.

 

 

These are just a few new activities featured at Peoples Natural Gas Field this year. To see the full list, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

And with that. It’s time for baseball. The Curve open up their season Thursday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. against the Erie SeaWolves. Tickets are available for the game and can be purchased at the Curve box office, AltoonaCurve.com, by calling 877.99.CURVE, and by the App. For those fans coming to the games during this homestand, here’s a look at what to expect.

 

April 3 vs Erie SeaWolves (AA – Tigers) | 6:30 p.m. (5:30 gates)

-          Opening Night

-          Postgame Fireworks

-          2014 Magnet Schedule Giveaway to the first 5,000 fans thanks to Premier Services of PA

-          Thirsty ThursdayTM presented by Rocky 104.9: $2 16oz. Yuengling drafts & $2 22oz. sodas

-          First Pitch by 2010 Curve All-Star and Current Pirates IF/OF Josh Harrison

-          First Pitch by 2003 Curve All-Star and former Pirates LHP Mike Johnston

-          Silver Steamers Club Game #1 presented by Homewood at Martinsburg

-          Kids Run the Bases

-

April 4 vs. Erie SeaWolves (AA – Tigers) | 6:30 p.m. (5:30 gates)

-          Pittsburgh Steelers DE Cam Heyward Appearance presented by Holiday Inn Express & WTAJ-TV (two hour autograph session in game)

-          Kids Run the Bases

 

April 5 vs. Erie SeaWolves (AA – Tigers) | 6 p.m. (5 p.m. gates)

-          Postgame Fireworks

-          Kids Run the Bases

 

April 6 vs. Erie SeaWolves (AA – Tigers) | 1 p.m. (12 p.m. gates)

-          Youth Baseball Clinic: Taught by Curve players and coaches and is free with the purchase of a ticket for Sunday afternoon’s game

-          Kids Run the Bases

 

April 7 vs. Akron RubberDucks (AA – Indians) | 6:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. gates)

-          Mirror Monday: $3 Grandstand tickets with the coupon from the front page of the sports section in the Altoona Mirror

 

April 8 vs. Akron RubberDucks (AA – Indians) | 6:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. gates)

-          Two-for-Tuesday: 2-for-1 offers on tickets, hot dogs and small popcorns thanks to Atlantic Broadband

 

April 9 vs. Akron RubberDucks (AA – Indians) | 6:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. gates)

-          Four Pack Wednesday: 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs & 4 regular sodas for $35 thanks to WALY 103.9

-          M&T Bank Customer Appreciation Wednesdays: Fans can show their M&T Bank Card for $2 off any ticket for regular-season Wednesday home games

 

 

 

 

See you at the ballpark!

-Mike

 

Baseball Fraternity On Full Display During Spring Training

By Rob Egan
My three-day trip here marked the eighth time I’ve been to spring training.  The last six of those journeys have occurred in consecutive years (2009-14) related to the same organization, complex, and city.  As such, I not only know my way around this city on Florida’s gulf coast, but I see more and more familiar faces each time.
 
As I recounted in Thursday’s blog, the first order of business here on Wednesday evening was hosting our field staff for dinner – most of whom were familiar.  Manager Carlos Garcia, pitching coach Stan Kyles, trainer Mike Zalno, and former player and newly-designated player/coach Miles Durham all renewed acquaintances with the Curve contingent.  Even the restaurant was familiar, as we like to go to Pier 22 which is along the Bradenton riverfront.
 
On Thursday, it was time to head over to the Pirate City complex to catch up with Larry Broadway, the Pirates’ Director of Player Development.  Curve fans were first introduced to “LB” as a first baseman with the Harrisburg Senators.  He’s now in his third season in charge of what is considered by many baseball experts as the best minor league system in the game.

While at Pirate City, I also meandered to the back fields to check out some of the action that was going on with the two Class ‘A’ clubs.  One of the first people I saw there was 2012 Curve pitching coach Jeff Johnson.  “JJ” reports that all is well with his wife, Deidre, and their two girls and that they are moving into a new house in North Carolina.  He will be at the Pirates’ Class ‘A’ affiliate in West Virginia again this season.  Johnson joked that he may be elected mayor in Charleston as he has been there as pitching coach for all but one of the years the Pirates have had their most recent affiliation there.
 
At the same field was Mike Ryan, who was a player/coach for the Curve in 2012.  A native of Indiana, PA who played for New Britain on his way up to the major leagues, he is entering his second season as manager of the West Virginia Power.  In addition to having Johnson return as his pitching coach, “Mikey” will welcome former Curve catcher Miguel Perez as the player/coach on his staff.
 
On the mound for the West Virginia club on Thursday was Pirates’ lefty Jeff Locke.  A National League All-Star in 2013, Locke was a key member of the Curve’s 2010 Eastern League Championship club and also pitched in Altoona for part of 2011.  As he tries to work his way back into the Pirates’ rotation, Locke had an excellent first inning by retiring the first three hitters so quickly (opposite field fly out, strikeout, weak ground out) they let him face a fourth which he retired on a broken-bat roller.  In the second inning, the southpaw ran into a little bit of trouble allowing a couple of hits and a walk before reaching his pitch count.  Locke, who was pitching for the first time in awhile, naturally fatigued as he reached the 45-50 pitch mark.
 
Later Thursday evening when attending the Pirates-Orioles’ Grapefruit League game at McKechnie Field, the Curve baseball fraternity gathering continued.  On top of seeing a lineup that featured seven of the nine Pirates’ players who once played for Altoona, former Pirates’ player and Curve player and coach, John Wehner, walked in through the facility’s media gate with his wife.  Now a Pirates’ broadcaster, Wehner was enjoying the night off of his duties by coming out to the game as a fan.  It’s a terrific irony that “Rock” has continued his baseball career as a TV/radio announcer.  He would always give me good-natured grief when I wanted to do a pre-game interview with him when I was broadcasting Curve games.  Now, he says he loves what he does and he is a natural with his baseball knowledge and his “Pittsburghese”.
 
Yesterday, I wrapped up my stay with a trip back to Pirate City to see the Double-A and Triple-A clubs as they prepared to play the Yankees’ affiliates.  Among the baseball people I saw on Friday were former Curve pitcher Kyle McPherson, who’s about one year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  While he’s no longer on the Pirates’ 40-man roster, team execs anticipate him making it back to a regular season mound in the minor leagues soon.  If healthy, the big Texan can provide the Pirates another option as a starter or reliever.
 
Also seen on the fields at Pirate City yesterday was 2011-12 Curve outfielder Quincy Latimore, who is battling to make a roster after splitting last year with the Akron Aeros and Washington Wild Things.  Latimore said he’s worked on cutting down his swing and is trying to drive the ball to all fields.  Team officials report good things about the outfielder’s attitude on his return to the Pirates’ organization.  Not that he was ever out-of-shape, but “Q” looked as well-conditioned as I had seen him and there’s a chance he could be a member of the Curve in 2014.
 
While I could go on and on, you get the point.  After several trips related to the same organization, you start to realize how many good and interesting people you get to meet in the game.  Many of our booster club members and other fans I saw in Florida would say the same.  Baseball has been very, very good to us.
 
See you at Peoples Natural Gas Field in 12 days!

Familiar Names, High Profile Addition to Fill 2014 Curve Roster

By: Rob Egan

While the biggest news regarding the 2014 Altoona Curve roster may be about who will be playing first base,  there are several other items that are intriguing.

Justin Howard will rejoin the Curve this season and split time between first base and left field (Credit: Gordon Donovan)

Justin Howard will rejoin the Curve this season and split time between first base and left field (Credit: Gordon Donovan)

While former second-round pick Stetson Allie getting pushed to Double-A to be the Curve’s regular first baseman surprised many, the new assignments for familiar faces will catch some attention, too.  Allie, who is likely to begin the season on the disabled list while recovering from an oblique strain, will push last year’s first baseman Justin Howard to left field when the former returns to game action in mid-April.  Pirates’ director of player development Larry Broadway says Allie has already started swinging the bat and will just need some reps in extended spring training before coming north.

Howard, who won the Curve’s unsung hero award for how well he played and hit last season, will still get everyday at bats, but most of them will be from his new outfield home.  Meanwhile, Jarek Cunningham, the second baseman each of the last two seasons will return to Altoona as the team’s primary third baseman.  Taking Cunningham’s spot at second will be former Curve shortstop Gift Ngoepe.

Alen Hanson will be the every day shortstop for Altoona this season and is ranked as the #3 Prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization according to Baseball America

Alen Hanson will be the every day shortstop for Altoona this season and is ranked as the No. 6 Prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization according to Baseball America

Teaming with Ngoepe, in what promises to be a fun double play tandem to watch, will be Alen Hanson.  A member of the Pirates’ 40-man roster, Hanson will look to follow up on his late – season audition last year with an even better 2014.  Backing up on the infield will be returnee Drew Maggi and, when he recovers from a foot injury, newcomer Dan Gamache.  Gamache will be a “priority utility man” according to Broadway getting at bats regularly while playing second, third, and left.

The outfield will be centered once again by Mel Rojas, Jr.  A solid fielder, Rojas impressed with his hot bat over the last two months of the 2013 season.  Willy Garcia,  who displayed good power in Bradenton last year, will be the regular right fielder for the Curve.

For a full rundown on the 2014 Curve roster, check out Cory Giger’s article in Sunday’s Altoona Mirror.  He’ll have more detail on the above players plus a look at the pitchers and catchers slated to begin the season at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

That’s all for today’s entry from Florida’s west coast.  Back with one more edition on Saturday.

Fun Fun Fun in the Florida Sun

Beautiful McKechnie Field, Spring Training Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Photo: Bradenton Marauders)

Beautiful McKechnie Field, Spring Training Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Photo: Bradenton Marauders)

Two Weeks!!!!! That’s all that stands between us and Opening Day 2014! We’ve still got tons of things going on around here to get ready for the big day and the big season (it is our Sweet 16 season after all!). GM Rob Egan has made it down to Florida to meet up with the coaching staff and give us some reports from the sun-splashed city of Bradenton. Rob flew down yesterday and has his first report for us from Spring Training.

Garcia, Staff Enjoy Rare Break
by Rob Egan

Bradenton, Fla. – At the end of one of their shorter work days of spring training, Curve manager Carlos Garcia and most of his coaching staff joined Curve owners Bob and Joan Lozinak and Sal Baglieri and me for dinner at Pier 22 near downtown.

Usually, minor league coaching staff members begin their day at the Pirate City complex before the sun comes up with 5 a.m. meetings to go over the day’s plans.  The players show up shortly thereafter and stretching, warmups, and hitting, pitching, and fielding drills follow. After that’s completed, the various level minor league teams get ready for their spring training games at either the multi-field Bradenton complex or they travel to another team’s facility and play there.  Once the 1 p.m. games are over, the staff reconvenes to go over that day and assess the progress of their teams and the individual players. It’s generally 5 p.m. or after before they are done for day.  Twelve-hour days are the norm.

On Wednesday, however, the staff and players enjoyed a rare respite.  “Camp Days”, such as the minor leaguers had on this day, start at the same time (5 a.m.), but the meetings and drills are condensed and the inter-squad games start at 10:30 a.m.  After the games are over, a brief meeting is all that separates the group from a cherished afternoon and evening off.

We were glad to see Carlos, pitching coach Stan Kyles, trainer Mike Zalno, player-coach Miles Durham, and newcomer Alan Burr, who will be the Curve’s strength and conditioning coach this season.  They all seemed relaxed and it’s always nice to have familiarity with a good number of returning staff members.  Ryan Long, who couldn’t attend the dinner because of another commitment, is back as our hitting coach again this year.  Also joining our dinner party were Curve clubhouse manager Jake Hundt and Joseph Baglieri, Sal’s son, who is an attorney based in Ft. Myers.

Toward the end of our get-together, we started talking about the make up of the 2014 Altoona Curve roster.  While there are ten more long days of spring training to settle the Major League and Minor League rosters that will open the season, most players know where they will be playing in late March/early April.  I’ll let you in on what the April 3 roster is likely to be for Altoona in tomorrow’s post.  Until then, stay warm!


Tourney Time

Whether you like the “First Four” or not, those games are now over and we’re set to start the NCAA Tournament tonight! Who do you have in your Final Four? Winning it all? Well…Al Tuna has made his own bracket after the Altoona Mirror asked him to be a VIP picker. Compare your picks along with Al’s and see if your “schools” (bad pun) match up with his!

Click below to view Al’s Picks

http://bit.ly/1hxi23F

We also thought it would be fun to take a gander at the bracket and see how many former Curve players have their alma mater in the tourney. At quick glance, here’s some of the names that we were able to find and we’d only assume that these folks would still be rooting for their schools.

Florida – Jeff Corsaletti (2009)
Pitt – Jim Negrych (2008-10)
UCLA – Gerrit Cole (2011)
New Mexico – Justin Howard (2013)
Stanford – Jeff Inman (2012-13)Ari
Kansas – Tom Gorzelanny (2004-05)
Virginia – Jeremy Farrell (2011-12)
Memphis – Derek Hankins (2007-10)
North Carolina – Josh Bonifay (2003-05)
Cincinnati – Josh Harrison (2010)
UConn – Erik Turgeon (2012)
Arizona – Mike Colla (2010-12)
Oklahoma State – Jordy Mercer (2010-11)
San Diego State – Taber Lee (2005-07)
Nebraska – Tony Watson (2009-2010)
Oregon – Zack Thornton (2013)
Wichita State – P.J. Forbes (2011-12)
Arizona State – Drew Maggi (2012-13)

Might have missed a few so we’ll keep looking but it’s a good list to start.


Spring Things 

For those that might or might not know, PiratesProspects.com has some of the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Pirates minor league system. It’s founder, Tim Williams, is based out of Bradenton and has been keeping up with both the Major League and Minor League side of things up until this point. Earlier this week and late last week Tim posted some of the players who have played in the minor league games for the Altoona squad up until this point. The links to those articles are below.

The Pitchers: 

http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/03/an-early-look-at-the-2014-pirates-minor-league-rosters-pitchers.html

The Position Players:

http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/03/an-early-look-at-the-2014-pirates-minor-league-rosters-position-players.html

That’s all for now…Mike and I have media guides and programs to finish! Oh and we’ll have some fun announcements next week about the All-Star Stop. Be on the watch for that.

– Mike
MyHead

Meet the New Mike on the Mic

Greetings Curve fans, this is your new broadcaster, Mike Baggerman. To be honest with you, I didn’t think Mike Passanisi would hire me because we share the same first name. Broadcasting is a funny world…but I suppose I owe a thanks to Mike & Mike on ESPN (and Passo for not being cruel).

Anyway… I’m originally from Binghamton (yes, home the rival B-Mets) and this is my fourth season in minor league baseball plus my second within the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Last season, I broadcasted for the Pirates Low-A Affiliate in West Virginia and was privileged to see some future Curve players first-hand.

As the ninth hitter on my high school baseball team, I realized that playing baseball for a career was a hokey goal, so I did the next best thing…broadcasting. I just wanted to watch baseball for a living so broadcasting seemed like the obvious goal and I’ve loved it ever since.

This is the first blog entry I’m writing for you. My opinions will be on here a lot. Just like any opinion, it’s subjective…so read it with an open mind.


When you catch a game this year at PNG Field, you might see some of the most mammoth home runs ever seen in person. Last year in West Virginia and Bradenton, baseball fans and media alike witnessed the potential of a young prospect in the Pirates organization. His name is Stetson Allie, and he is my player to watch in 2014.

Stetson Allie split time last season with West Virginia (A) and Bradenton (High-A) Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Stetson Allie split time last season with West Virginia (A) and Bradenton (High-A) Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

When I first heard that Allie might get the call to Double-A, I was surprised. The 22-year-old first baseman (who turns 23 Wednesday) dominated the South Atlantic League during his half-season in West Virginia last year (.324 AVG, 17 HR, 81 RBI, .607 SLG%) and was selected as the starting first-baseman in the All-Star Game. After the mid-summer classic, Allie made the drive to High-A Bradenton to finish the season with the Marauders.

That’s where the surprise comes in.

Allie’s numbers diminished during his time with the Marauders (.229 AVG, 4 HR, 25 RBI, .356 SLG%). Numbers dropping like certainly raise the eyebrows among a lot of skeptics especially now that he’s making the jump to Altoona. Last season I had a chance to learn about challenges at different levels in minor league baseball from the Power coaching staff, a crew that all had three former big leaguers.

The biggest conclusion drawn was that the jump from High-A to Double-A is the toughest to handle for a lot of players but I think Allie can handle it. Maybe it’s my can-do attitude that makes me optimistic for the subject, but it helps that Allie reportedly dropped weight while still being able to hit the ball for power.

Here’s an excerpt from Tim Williams of Pirates prospects who puts Allie’s offseason transformation into perspective:

“Allie didn’t need to lose weight,” Tim said in his article.  “He said he lost weight to improve his game, and just because he felt he would be better if he lost the weight. When it comes to the batting stance, he sought out help from people who knew his swing, and people he trusted. As someone who saw him last year in Bradenton at the end of the year, and has seen him this year, I can tell you that the swing looks much better. The swing last year had a lot of effort. The swing this year looks natural, and the ball just flies off his bat. I didn’t need Allie telling me that he fixed his swing. I already saw that.”

(To read the entire article from Tim Williams: Click HERE)

Physics weren’t my bread and butter in school, but common sense tells me that because Allie lost some weight, he will have a slight increase in speed not just running the base paths, but at the plate. He can make better adjustments on breaking pitches because of the changes.

I don’t think Allie will have a season like he did in West Virginia. He also won’t have the low numbers like he did in Bradenton. I think if he stays healthy (if he does in fact start in the EL), Allie can put up steady numbers and as he gets more acclimated to the Eastern League could be a future MVP if he stays in the league for more than one year.

– Mike

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