Frank Coonelly said he's thrilled about having the Pirates play the Curve in Altoona next year.
It was made official Thursday the Pirates and Curve will face off on March 30, 2013, a day before Easter Sunday, at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Coonelly, the Pirates president, said he's pleased baseball fans in Altoona will have a chance to see the major league club without having to travel much at all.
"The Altoona fans are passionate Curve fans, but they're also passionate Pirates fans,'' Coonelly said. "It's a way for an organization to say thank you to the great fans for all the support they've given the Curve and the Pirates over the years.''
Coonelly originally announced on April 5 - opening night for the Curve - an exhibition game between the Curve and Pirates would happen next season, and the date was agreed upon earlier in the week.
"We want to play when our great fans in Altoona can make it to the game,'' Coonelly said. "So, Saturday works better than a weekday.''
The 2013 campaign will be the Curve's 15th season, but it will be just the second time the Pirates have ever visited Altoona for an exhibition game. The only other occurrence happened more than a decade ago when the Curve hosted the Pirates on May 15, 2000 before 7,346 fans at what was then Blair County Ballpark.
Tonight: Erie at Altoona, doubleheader with Game one at 6 p.m.
Pitchers: Game one - Curve RHP Gerrit Cole (2-2, 5.17) vs. SeaWolves RHP James Avery (9-7, 4.25); Game two - Curve TBD vs. SeaWolves RHP Jared Gayhart (1-1, 4.56)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: Thursday's game between the Curve and Erie was rained out. The contest will be made up Sunday as part of a doubleheader, which is slated to begin at 5 p.m.
SAFE AT FIRST: The Curve and SeaWolves also have a doubleheader tonight, meaning the two teams will play five games in a span of three days. This evening's twinbill starts at 6 p.m.
STEALING SECOND: Thursday was the second day in a row the Curve were impacted by the weather. The Curve won their series finale in Richmond on Wednesday night in a game which was called in the seventh inning during its second rain delay.
ROUNDING THIRD: RHP Gerrit Cole, who was scheduled to pitch Thursday, will start the first game of tonight's doubleheader. Cole has not pitched at Peoples Natural Gas Field in exactly one month, as he made his Double-A debut on June 20 against New Britain. In four starts with the Curve, the Pirates' top prospect is 2-2 with a 5.17 ERA.
HEADING HOME: Speaking of Cole, he is the subject of tonight's giveaway at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The first 1,000 fans through the gate to game one of the doubleheader will receive a Gerrit Cole Fireball, which is a ball with Cole's name and likeness on it.
Coonelly said current Curve management - specifically owner Bob Lozinak and general manager Rob Egan - was instrumental in getting the 2013 date with the Bucs set up.
"I have to give the Lozinak family and Rob Egan the credit,'' Coonelly said. "They really understand better than I do, the value of having the Pirates coming into Altoona.''
According to Coonelly, there are many logistical issues to work through when getting an exhibition game in place. But he added the fact Altoona and Pittsburgh are relatively close geographically makes it easier for next year's contest to happen.
"One of the many reasons why it's great having our Double-A affiliate in Altoona is the closeness to Pittsburgh," Coonelly said. "In years in which we're opening at home, it makes it much more convenient to have a game like this."
There has also been some discussion about the Pirates playing an exhibition game in Indianapolis next season. Coonelly said talks about the Bucs playing their Triple-A affiliate next spring weren't closed down, but nothing has been officially planned.
Regardless of what happens in Indianapolis, the Curve's exhibition with the Pirates for next season is on the calendar. Egan said he is hoping for a good crowd for the contest, but regardless of the success of the event, Coonelly said he's not ready to say the Pirates playing in Altoona will become more common of an occurrence.
"There's interest from other affiliates as well, to have these types of exhibitions," Coonelly said. "We're thrilled to do it [in Altoona], and we'll look forward to other opportunities in the future."