About one in five players on this year's Curve team will reach the major leagues -- the franchise's historical number is 22 percent -- and they will go on to experience incredible thrills playing in baseball cathedrals against the world's greatest players.
For those who don't make it to The Show, tonight's game probably will be as good as it gets in their careers.
They get the chance to face Andy Pettitte, one of the best postseason pitchers in history, in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series at Blair County Ballpark.
"It's a great honor for us to be able to face him," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said.
"To face a pitcher like Andy Pettitte, that's even more motivation for us and a lot of excitement," third baseman Josh Harrison said.
Pettitte will make his second rehab start for Trenton as he comes back from a groin injury. The lefty is expected to go five innings or 80 pitches, then return to the New York Yankees for a run at yet another World Series (he's won five).
Fundraiser benefits Smiths
All money collected during tonight's postgame ball launch promotion will go to assist the family of Kate Smith, who died Monday.
Smith was a Miracle League volunteer who frequently worked at the ball launch table at BCB, and her husband, Denny, is a part-time usher and Miracle League volunteer.
Pettitte has gone 18-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 40 postseason starts -- those 18 wins are an MLB record -- and he has started eight World Series games. His regular-season career record is 240-137 with a 3.87 ERA.
"What a great opportunity for these guys to face a future Hall of Famer," Walbeck said. "Talk about development. This is going to certainly challenge them to a different level."
The Hall of Fame component is debatable, in part because of Pettitte's numbers, and in part because he has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. In 2007, after being named in baseball's Mitchell Report, Pettitte admitted that he had used human growth hormone.
He has continued to enjoy success since then, however, and last year at age 37, he won two games in the World Series as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He's done a lot of great things in the big leagues for 20 some-odd years, and we're excited [to face him]," Curve outfielder Andrew Lambo said. "As much as he's had all those accomplishments, it's still not going to change our approach or change how we go about things."
The beauty of baseball is that any pitcher can be hit on a given day. Some may think Pettitte will breeze through the Curve's lineup, and that indeed may happen. But it's far from a guarantee, especially given that Altoona's offense is riding a hot streak coming off its Western Division series win over Harrisburg.
Can they hit Pettitte?
"Oh yeah, definitely," Harrison said. "You've got to have that confidence. At the end of the day, a pitcher has to go out and pitch, a hitter has to go out and hit. Regardless of who's out on the mound, you still have to have a plan and stick with that plan."
The Curve did that when they faced phenom Stephen Strasburg twice this season, and both times they had great success against him. They scored four runs in each of Strasburg's starts, more than any other team he faced until his 10th start in the major leagues.
"If you look back at the performance that we put together against Strasburg, I think that was a pretty good indication of what kind of group we have and the mentality," Walbeck said. "So I don't think they're going to be too awestruck about it. I think they're going to go out, and they're going to try and beat him."
Pettitte is having an outstanding season with the Yankees, going 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts before getting injured July 18.
"It's a great challenge," Lambo said. "Not knocking him or anything, but we're not going to sit here and, because he's pitching, go down dreary lane. We're going to keep our same approach and our same routine and go about our business."
Pettitte will be opposed by Curve lefty Rudy Owens, who gets a chance to end his season on a positive note after struggling in his first playoff start. Owens led the EL with a 2.46 ERA this year but allowed five runs -- four earned -- in only 1 2/3 innings in Game 1 against Harrisburg.
"The last one left me hungry," Owens said. "It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't want to go out like that, and getting another opportunity to go out and throw again, I'm happy to be out there."
Even if it's against Pettitte. Actually, tonight won't be anything new for Owens, who opposed Strasburg in his highly publicized minor league debut April 11 at BCB.
"No matter who is out there, in reality, I have to do what I have to do to get people out," Owens said. "I can't worry about him."
Pettitte pitched for Trenton on Thursday against New Hampshire and threw four shutout innings, giving up two hits with four strikeouts and no walks. The Thunder swept the Fisher Cats in three games to advance to the ELCS, which they won in 2007 and '08.
Having Pettitte certainly gives Trenton a competitive advantage in this series, but there are no hard feelings in the Curve camp.
"It is development down here," Walbeck said, "and the Yankees' primary concern right now is to get Andy Pettitte back in the big leagues. And the opportunity for him to pitch right now happens to be against the Altoona Curve in the championship series.
"I don't think that the Yankees are sending Andy Pettitte down here so that Trenton can win in the championship," he added. "They want to get him ready so that they can win a World Series."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.