If this weather we've been experiencing all winter hasn't been enough of a reminder, the unofficial first day of spring arrived Thursday.
The calendar says spring starts on March 21, but around here it's really when the Curve return to open another season.
Thursday night marked year No. 14 since we've been fortunate enough to become a Double-A town - one of the smallest Double-A markets in the country - and while it's not as electric as that magical night in 1999 when Blair County Ballpark officially opened, it's still special.
Attendance was listed at 5,354, with the season-ticket base downstairs representing particularly well.
General manager Rob Egan was pleased, saying the opening-night figure was the highest since 2008.
"It's shown an uptick," he said between innings. "The promotion helped along with the beautiful weather."
The first four home openers in franchise history each drew at least 6,100, but the team has topped 6,000 just twice since then, including a high mark of 6,736 in 2008. Since, though, they've averaged 4,846 over the past four years in their home debut.
Thursday brought 60 degrees for the first pitch and as nice a day as any Eastern League town could expect for April 5.
To that end, opening night has not become the automatic sellout here, or most places in the Eastern League, that it is in Major League Baseball.
You just hope the Curve experience doesn't get old, and yet 71 home dates, particularly before school lets out in June, is a challenge in all minor-league towns.
Even when former owner Chuck Greenberg and general manager Todd Parnell were calling the shots, standing on their heads and shaking hands with the entire town, attendance was on the decline.
Though the Curve's season-ticket base is 1,100 - "one of the more robust figures in the [Eastern] league," Egan said - "even the most successful franchises, like Reading, will struggle with attendance until school gets out. So we're not alone in that boat."
After averaging a franchise-high 5,970 in 2004, fan support steadily shrunk to 4,150 in 2010 before it spiked to 4,205 last year. Egan hopes 2012 will continue the upward climb.
"We're pleased to have this kind of support 14 years out," Egan said, "and we do have to get creative in terms of some of the things we do, but our fans are responding."
That's part of the reason the Curve sold naming rights in the offseason, and BCB is now known as Peoples Natural Gas Field.
While the lack of a corporate sponsor provided the sense of team ownership to all of us, it's not like the Curve are the first to take the plunge, and if that's what it takes to keep the team here and in Double-A, so be it.
It may have a new name, but it's the same place - still picturesque, still a meeting place, still a crown jewel in Altoona, Blair County and central Pennsylvania.
Here's hoping it stays that way.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.