The Curve have had 85 players reach the major leagues, and each one deserves credit for fulfilling his lifetime dream.
Some players stand out, though, because they were the ones who overcame more obstacles or battled more adversity to get there. We've seen three examples of that recently with Josh Harrison, Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos all getting called up to the Pirates.
First-round draft picks and other highly touted prospects are supposed to reach the majors, and they are given every opportunity to do so. These 10 former Curve players didn't always receive such special treatment, so they had to do a lot more to earn their spot in the big leagues.
1. OF Adam Hyzdu
Altoona's very own baseball legend, and still the answer for many fans when asked about their all-time favorite Curve player. A first-round pick of the Giants in 1990, it looked like he had run out of chances after getting released from Boston's Triple-A team in May of 1999. That merely set the stage for his remarkable rise in Altoona, and shortly after the Curve retired his No. 16 jersey in 2000, the 28-year-old who had been in the minors for 11 years finally got the call to the big leagues from the Pirates.
2. RHP Mike Johnston
How they fared in majors
*Luis Figueroa.....2001, 06-07......111.....22.....18.....2.....0.....0
A great story of overcoming personal adversity and not letting anything stand in your way. The relief pitcher enjoyed a stellar 2003 season for the Curve, but few of his teammates knew he had been battling Tourette syndrome since he was 12 years old. The neurological disorder can cause severe tics, along with physical and verbal outbursts, but Johnston beat it and joined Jim Eisenreich as the only two players with Tourette's to reach the major leagues. An all-around good guy, Johnston now lives in the area with his wife, Michelle, and their two children.
3. 3B Rico Washington
Perseverance paid off for the likable guy with the Southern drawl when he got a shot in the big leagues with the Cardinals in 2008, after spending 10 years in the minors. Washington had been a highly touted Pirates prospect when he first joined the Curve in 2000 but never fully lived up to expectations. He kept grinding it out year after year and bounced from organization to organization until finally getting his opportunity when he was 29 years old.
4. 3B Josh Harrison
The Man. He will always have a place in Curve history because of his awesome walk-up song. The guy doesn't walk tall at only 5-foot-7, but he carries a big stick and hit his way to the majors two weeks ago after a strong start in Triple-A. It looked like the Pirates were relegating him to organizational player status when they moved him from second base to third last year, since he doesn't have much power and is anything but a prototypical third baseman. But the move actually paved the way for him to reach the big leagues after injuries to Pedro Alvarez and Steve Pearce.
5. OF Alex Presley
He wasn't even an everyday player at Single-A Lynchburg in 2009, then out of nowhere he emerged as the best pure hitter in Curve history last season. Presley set a franchise record with a .350 batting average plus had one game with two homers and a team-record eight RBIs. After getting promoted to Triple-A, he hit for the cycle in just his third game. His remarkable season culminated with a call-up to the Pirates in September. Virtually no one would think he's a professional baseball player to look at him, given his small stature, but Presley remains a hit machine this season at Indianapolis and should be called up to the Bucs again any day now.
6. LHP Daniel Moskos
He was a first-round pick, so of course he was supposed to get to the majors. But he was vilified for being the wrong guy drafted - fans wanted catcher Matt Wieters - and even though he had nothing to do with which team selected him, he had to endure an enormous amount of unfair criticism until getting called up earlier this season.
7. OF Rob Mackowiak
He looked like a run-of-the-mill minor leaguer when he first came to the Curve in 1999, but he opened everyone's eyes the following year by batting .297 with 13 homers and 87 RBIs. He was the prototypical super-utility player, and his bat kept him in the majors for eight seasons. On May 28, 2004, the day his son, Garrett, was born, Mackowiak enjoyed a career in one day with the Pirates. He won the first game of a doubleheader with a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning, and he tied game two with a two-run homer in the ninth.
8. LHP Shane Youman
A reliever for much of the 2005 season, he came on strong down the stretch in a starting role. He then started 2006 in the bullpen before being moved to the rotation, and all he did was set the Curve's single-season record with a 1.51 ERA. He didn't have great stuff or do anything exceptional, but he could get hitters out. The Pirates rewarded him with a call-up to the majors in late 2006.
9. LHP Tony Watson
No one would have believed Watson could get to the majors after he went 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA in five starts for the Curve in 2009. He suffered an elbow injury and missed the rest of the season, but he came back last year and was outstanding, going 6-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 34 games (nine starts). He continued his success this year in Triple-A and was called up to the Pirates this past week.
10. SS Luis Figueroa
Figgy is still going at age 37 - one of only a handful of guys from the inaugural Curve club that remains active - and has played for more than 20 teams since 1997. He's always been able to hit (.282 lifetime average), and that plus a solid glove have kept him in the game. He has made it to the majors with the Pirates, Mets, Blue
Jays and Giants but has played in only 22 big league games. He's hitting .302 in Triple-A this season for Buffalo (Mets), so it's conceivable he could get called up again if New York gets in a pinch.