Curve GM has good vibe about Bucs

Jason Kendall, Brian Giles and some other Pirates players weren’t exactly thrilled with playing an exhibition game in Altoona on an off day during the major league season in 2000, but circumstances are different this time around for the Buccos.

The exhibition game next weekend at Peoples Natural Gas Field is taking place before the season, and Curve general manager Rob Egan knows the Pirates players are looking forward to it.

“I genuinely believe they’re excited,” Egan, who visited with Pirates personnel this week in Bradenton, Fla., said during a news conference Thursday to discuss logistics for the March 30 exhibition.

“We’re thrilled that the game’s almost here,” Egan added. “We’re looking forward to a game like this, and we know our fans are, as well.

Here’s what fans can expect for next weekend’s highly anticipated exhibition between the Pirates and their Double-A affiliate:

n More than 9,200 tickets have been sold so far, and for now there are no more standing-room only tickets available.

The ballpark record is 9,308 set during the 2006 Eastern League All-Star Game, and that record already is assured of falling because of the number of comp tickets that will go to people such as players’ families.

The Curve are holding onto an additional 800-1,000 potential standing-room only tickets to see what the weather is like late next week. Those seats would be for the grassy hill beyond the left field bleachers and will only be put up for sale if the weather is good and it will be comfortable for fans to sit on the hill.

While reaching 10,000 fans is a goal and is feasible with good weather, Egan said the primary objective is to do “what’s right by our fans.” If it won’t be comfortable packing in more than the 9,200 tickets already accounted for, the franchise won’t push it just to reach a certain attendance number.

If more tickets are to be made available, the Curve will know by next Friday at the latest.

n The Curve will not mail out tickets, and fans who purchased vouchers must pick up their tickets at will call. They can do so at the ballpark from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, or can pick them up on game day.

n The box office will open at 8 a.m. and the parking lots will open at 7 a.m. on game day. No tailgating will be allowed.

n The VIP parking lot will be available for season-ticket holders only. All others can park in the usual lots or in the surface lot for Lakemont Park. Parking will be $3.

n Ballpark gates will open at 11:30 a.m. for season-ticket holders and at noon for all others.

n The Curve will work out on the field from 11 a.m. to noon, and the Pirates will be on the field from noon to 1 p.m. Fans will be able to enter the ballpark in time to watch the Pirates warm up on the field.

n Pirates president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington are expected to be at the game.

n The Curve have partnered with the Miracle League of Blair County to put on a memorable opportunity. Miracle League participants will be able to be on the field before the game to meet Pirates players.

“We want to thank the Curve for doing this for us,” Miracle League president Joe Reed said.

n Well-known rocker and western Pennsylvania native Donnie Iris will sing the national anthem. Iris had hit songs heading the group Donnie Iris and the Cruisers and is a native of Ellwood City.

n The Pirates’ radio broadcast team of Tim Neverett and John Wehner will call the game. The TV crew on Fox 8 will be Curve play-by-play man Mike Passanisi and former Bucco pitcher Stan Belinda. Jon Laaser, a former Curve broadcaster who now works for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, will come back to call play-by-play on the Curve Radio Network.

“We don’t know when they’ll be able to come back … so this is a very special occasion,” Egan said of the Pirates’ visit.