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Action on the field rivets Curve fans

7,800 pack ballpark to witness first innings of the Harrisburg Senators’ phenom pitcher

April 12, 2010
By Cory Giger,

It felt nothing like a minor league baseball game, where typically many fans barely pay attention to the action on the field because they're in line for food, talking to friends or waiting for goofy mascot performances.

Sunday's Altoona Curve game took on an entirely different feel as 7,887 fans showed up at Blair County Ballpark and watched intently as Stephen Strasburg delivered each and every pitch.

All eyes were glued on the Harrisburg Senators' 21-year-old phenom pitcher, with the nation also watching on ESPNews. Glancing around the standing-room-only crowd, it was evident the fans understood they were witnessing history and wanted to soak it up.

"It was amazing to be there," season-ticket holder Kassy Olewiler of Altoona said. "It felt like you were at a major league ballpark because everybody was paying attention.

"I think there was a real sense of something special happening when we were watching, and everybody knew that."

Strasburg, the Washington Nationals' $15.1 million prospect with a gifted right arm, wasn't untouchable as some expected. He threw a few pitches clocked at 100 mph, as well as some sharp-breaking curveballs, but he also allowed four runs on four hits in five innings of work.

Only one of those runs was earned as Harrisburg's defense committed a couple of costly errors that helped the Curve take a 4-0 lead. The Senators rallied, however, for a 6-4 win, with Strasburg picking up the victory.

"Great atmosphere," Strasburg said of the Blair County Ballpark experience. "It's just an amazing feeling to have your first outing in front of a sellout crowd and all the attention and everything.

"It made it seem like this was one of the biggest games of my life, when it was actually the fourth game of the season."

Strasburg struck out eight with two walks, and he also smacked an RBI double in the second at-bat of his career.

"I definitely was super excited," Strasburg said. "There was a lot of anticipation for this outing."

So much anticipation, in fact, that it even amazed someone who figured he had seen everything there is to see in the minor leagues. Curve owner Bob Lozinak has been running teams for 30 years, but he had never witnessed anything like the spectacle his franchise hosted Sunday.

"It's unbelievable," Lozinak said. "Just wonderful, and we're blessed today. Here we are with a gorgeous day, packed house. Just unbelievable."

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