Regardless of the team's record, regardless of the situation, Curve players will hustle and respect the game, or else there will be consequences.
For several years the Pirates have had a philosophy - one strongly supported by Curve manager Carlos Garcia - that any player who fails to meet certain standards of hustle, effort or dedication will get pulled from a game immediately. Often times, the player has to sit out the next game, as well.
Former outfielder Gorkys Hernandez was the most frequent violator of those rules as he was benched at least a half-dozen times during his Curve tenure (2009-10) by then-manager Matt Walbeck.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Aaron?Smith, 7, of Cumberland, Md., takes in his very first Altoona Curve game along with his grandfather, Kevin?Smith, also of Cumberland, at PNG Field Friday night.
Garcia has been busy this season upholding the rules, and he did so again Friday night when center fielder Keon Broxton was benched. Broxton struck out in the eighth inning Thursday night and spiked his helmet at the plate, a no-no that got him pulled right then and cost him Friday's game, as well.
"They know the rules, they know the standards for the organization," Garcia said Friday, after an 8-2 loss to Binghamton before 5,137 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
And when they break a rule?
Tonight: Binghamton at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Zack Dodson (2-3, 4.09) vs. B-Mets LHP Steven Matz (0-0, 7.94)
"They know it. They know to put their glove on the bench, and they know somebody else is going to play," Garcia said.
Shortstop Alen Hanson returned to the lineup Friday after missing six games for what the Pirates called a development issue, which began with him getting benched during a game at Portland last Saturday.
Counting the games missed by Hanson, roughly 20 percent of the team's 79 games this season have included some type of disciplinary action for a Curve player. Several players have been pulled in multiple games, usually for not hustling to first base.
The Pirates have a five-second rule for running to first, and any player who goes over five seconds is pretty much guaranteed a spot on the bench.
"It's hustle," first baseman Matt Curry said. "You can control your effort every day. Whether you're playing good or playing bad, you can control your effort."
Curry has been pulled from two games for not meeting the five-second rule, and both times he was benched. But he understands and respects why the Pirates have implemented it.
"All of us are trying to give good effort," Curry said. "Sometimes we just hit a ball and we think, oh shoot, and we don't get out of the box like we should. If you go hard on the balls, sometimes they fall. Even if they get caught most of the time, that one time it might fall.
"There's not many organizations where we see guys hustle like we do. It sets a standard for us."
Even if the Pirates didn't demand the tough consequences, Garcia would anyway.
"In order to build a professional ballplayer who respects the game, you have to be able to hold the players accountable," the manager said.
"They know they're not supposed to do that stuff. They know they're supposed to run, they know they're supposed to show energy and great effort every single day. If they don't do that, the consequences have to be paid."
It has happened too many times already this season that a Curve player has been benched for failing to hustle or some other reason, and one common thread is that all the players know they could be next if they don't do their job the right way.
"Once we do it, we know we did it," Curry said. "You know (Garcia is) going to pull you, and once you get done with it you're like, shoot, why didn't I get down the line. But sometimes you just have that brain fart and you take your punishment."
Garcia said he doesn't hold a grudge against players who need to be benched and added that the message does come through loud and clear for them.
"Playing time is more important to them than anything else, and that's why we sit them," he said.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RF Kyle Johnson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for Binghamton.
Key play: Johnson's three-run triple gave the B-Mets a 4-0 lead in the fourth.
Key stat: RHP Adrian Sampson gave up a season-high seven runs for the Curve.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 1st: Johnson singled, scored on Burgamy groundout (0-1).
Top 4th: Ceciliani doubled, Carillo walked, Pill singled, all scored on Johnson triple (0-4).
Bottom 5th: Vasquez tripled, scored on Cunningham groundout (1-4).
Top 7th: Pill singled, scored on Herrera double (1-5); Herrera doubled, scored on Burgamy double (1-6); Lawley two-run homer scored Burgamy (1-8).
Bottom 7th: Curry doubled, scored on Garcia double (2-8).