Winter Meetings Diary Day 1: Support from Hurdle Made Altoona Exhibition Game Possible


If you turn on SportsCenter or even pass by the MLB Network over the next few days, you’ll be destined to be inundated with any potential trade rumor because it is that time of year in baseball season when the entire baseball community descends on one place for the yearly Winter Meetings.  This year, the meetings have returned to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. and kicked off yesterday (Monday) with the Red Sox nabbing Mike Napoli for three years and $39 million while the San Francisco Giants re-signed Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract.

While what goes on with the MLB teams usually takes center stage, there is plenty for minor league clubs to do as well as the annual gathering with the Trade Show being the hot spot for the best and brightest ideas that teams might implement in the coming season.  The Curve contingent of owner Bob Lozinak, C.O.O. David Lozinak, senior adviser Sal Baglieri, GM Rob Egan, AGM Matt Hoover and Dir. of Merchandise Claire Hoover made their way to Nashville Sunday night and this is the first in a series of diaries where Rob will detail the day’s events of the Curve staffers.

Monday’s Entry: Support from Hurdle Made Exhibition Game Possible In Altoona: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Almost before the final pitch was thrown in the May 2000 exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Altoona Curve at then-Blair County Ballpark, fans were asking Curve staff when the major league club would come to Altoona again.  Now, less than four months from the Pirates’ return visit to Altoona for the March 30 exhibition game, Curve officials attending the Baseball Winter Meetings here had the opportunity on Monday evening to discuss some of the many details related to the game with various Pirates’ staff.  All were pleased to hear of the fans’ tremendous interest in the game and that standing room tickets were already on sale.

President Frank Coonelly, Senior Vice President and General Manager Neal Huntington, and Assistant General Manager Kyle Stark were instrumental in making the game a reality when discussions heated up last winter.  However, before they would commit to bringing the Major League club to Altoona, they wanted to get the support of Clint Hurdle, who was gearing up for his second season as manager of the Pirates.  Sometimes that’s not an easy conversation for front office executives to have with managers who are concerned about the toll the extra travel may have on the players.  In fact, in 2002, the players union bargained to require that exhibition games against minor league affiliates occur before the regular season so that rare off-days during the season weren’t occupied by a road trip to one of their affiliates’ towns.

With this in mind, Coonelly and Huntington approached Hurdle to propose the idea.  It turns out there was no need to worry.  While he was manager of the Rockies, Hurdle had participated in an exhibition game in Colorado Springs (Rockies’ Class AAA affiliate) and saw the impact that it had for the minor league franchise and its fans.  As he said to Curve executives Monday, exhibition games are a way to tangibly thank the fans and the minor league affiliate for what they do in aiding the development of their players.  He said it’s one thing to say “thank you”, but that actions speak louder than words.  On behalf of the Curve and its fan base, I would like to say “thank you” to Clint for being supportive of the exhibition game and promise that we will continue taking action to support the Major League organization’s objective of developing players to the fullest while they are in Altoona.

In addition to connecting with the Pirates’ staff, the Curve contingent of Bob Lozinak, Sal Baglieri, David Lozinak, Matt Hoover, Claire Hoover, and yours truly were busy on Monday attending the Bob Freitas Business Seminar with breakout sessions and roundtable discussions.  The seminar offers insights into how other clubs and executives operate successfully in a range of areas:  sales, marketing, ballpark operations, merchandising, and community and media relations.  This is always an invaluable part of the Winter Meetings for minor league clubs as they share new ideas with one another that will help serve the fans a better experience when they come to our ballparks.  What works in Reading, just might work in Altoona.  The greatest form of flattery is seeing an idea we came up with Altoona being used by other teams with success in their markets.

Tuesday and Wednesday will feature several trips to the Baseball Trade Show for the Curve staff.  The show has hundreds of exhibitors showing off their products and services that have an application to our operation.  We’ll also be attending the Eastern League Meeting and learning more about the latest national marketing inititives of Minor League Baseball.  I’ll update you on those activities and let you know all of the baseball celebrities we spot in and around the Opryland Resort in Thursday’s morning’s journal.


Steamer Claus Helicopter Entrance

If you missed Saturday  morning’s Holiday Bazaar here at the ballpark, you missed quite a good time and some pretty nice weather for this time of year in Blair County.  Our lovable mascot Steamer also made a splash at the Bazaar with his grand entrance via the STAT Medevac helicopter from Altoona Regional Health System.  A video clip of Steamer’s entrance is below.

I think that’s all we’ve got for this edition of the blog.  A big thanks to Rob for writing today’s entry and we’ll hear more from the Winter Meetings as the week progresses!  And on a personal note, I hope the Curve staff runs into some filming of the ABC show “Nashville”, which has been pretty good thus far in the first half of its first season.


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