Curve vie for fresh approach in 15th year

It’s opening day, take two for the Altoona Curve.

The franchise already hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates for an exhibition game March 30 at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and tonight the Curve will play their regular-season home opener against the Harrisburg Senators at 6:30.

This is the Curve’s 15th season, and franchise officials understand that to keep fans interested in coming back year after year, they must keep things fresh at the ballpark.

“It’s very important,” said Matt Hoover, the Curve’s assistant general manager for marketing and promotions. “Fifteen seasons, we have a very loyal fan base that has been out to many games throughout the years, so they’ve seen a lot of things that we’ve done.

“So every day we’re thinking of new things to do for our fans. But then we also keep some of our staples that we’ve seen our fans enjoy.”

Two of those staples will be on display in the Curve’s first two home games.

Fireworks are a ballpark favorite throughout the minor leagues, and the Curve understand that very well, scheduling postgame fireworks shows for 25 of their 71 games this season. The first will take place tonight.

“If you enjoy fireworks, you don’t have to wait around until the Fourth of July to see them,” Hoover said. “You can come out to one of our shows throughout the year.

“The good thing about our park, we shoot our fireworks so close behind the center field fence that you’re basically sitting in the front row for a fireworks show.”

Another Curve staple has been bringing in a Pittsburgh Steelers player early in the season. That will continue this year when center Maurkice Pouncey visits PNG Field for a two-hour autograph session during Friday night’s game.

“We’ve done it for a few years, and it seems like we get a decent amount of Steelers fans that come to the game to meet him,” Hoover said.

Tonight is being called “BOpening Night” by the Curve, with the franchise paying tribute to former batboy Robert “Bo” Forney, who died in February at just 21 years old. Forney had been a batboy since 2008 and was very well-liked by many former Curve players and coaches.

Forney’s family will be on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches, and there will be an auction of Curve versus Pirates game-used memorabilia that will raise money for the American Heart Association in Forney’s name.

“Bo had such a positive impact on our coaches, players and staff,” Curve general manager Rob Egan said. “He was part of the team for five seasons, and we miss him deeply.

“Bo had the rare ability to bring happiness to others by the way he treated them. What a blessing it was to have him in our lives. We really felt like having a night to celebrate his life while at the same time helping others was a fitting way to honor him.”