By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa.—The Curve advanced to the Eastern League playoffs in 2016 and nobody played a bigger role in the club’s success than Montana DuRapau.
DuRapau (pronounced Dur-AH-Poh) ranked second in the EL and led the Pirates organization with 22 saves in 26 tries. He also led the EL with 43 games finished and ranked fourth in appearances (50).
Those numbers earned him the Curve’s Fireman-of-the-Year award.
DuRapau is back in Altoona to start the 2017 season and he’s expected to fill the closer’s role again.
“Last season was a lot of fun,” DuRapau was saying on media day at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “It was my first full season in the closer role and it was an interesting learning experience.
“I had always been a starter in my career,” he noted. “They say the hardest three outs to get are the last three, and they’re right. It’s a whole different game – very intense. You need a bulldog mentality out there.”
The Curve’s new manager, Michael Ryan, managed DuRapau in Bradenton two years ago and is familiar with his closer.
“He’s not the biggest guy in the world (5-11, 175), but he has a big heart,” Ryan said. “He competes every night. Plenty of great pitchers aren’t big. Size is important but he’s proved that wrong.”
As long as DuRapau is in Altoona, he’ll be the Curve closer, Ryan said.
“He has everything you need mentally to be a closer,” Ryan said. “He has all the attributes.”
DuRapau has lived most of his life in Deltona, Fla., and attended Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach where he compiled a 25-15 record and 3.19 ERA in 66 college games – most of them as a starter.
A 32nd-round draft pick in the 2014 MLB draft, DuRapau was not considered a major prospect, but that didn’t bother him.
“I always had a lot of confidence,” he said. “As soon as I was drafted, I knew I had the opportunity to go as far as I could. That’s always been my driving force and I’ll do my thing as long as I can and go as far as I can.”
He was switched to reliever at low-A West Virginia in 2015 and it’s been a good move for him and the Pirates, too, as he’s earned 37 saves since.
DuRapau enjoyed spring training, especially the final game when he pitched an inning for the big-league Pirates against the Blue Jays at Montreal.
“50,000 screaming Canadians,” DuRapau said. “That was very cool and quite an experience.”
And, how about that first name – Montana? Nothing unusual, he said. No family name or anything like that.
“My mom was reading a book before I was born,” he said, “and the setting was in Montana.
“I’ve never even been to Montana.”