Orr a staple around Curve

BRADENTON, Fla. — Friday was one of the nicest days I’ve spent at Pirate City in a long time. It was a beautiful morning, the Pirates’ entire squad was on hand for the first time, and I had an enjoyable conversation with good friend David Orr.

If you’re an Altoona Curve fan, you probably know Orr. Maybe not by name, but surely by the Panama hat and ever-present smile. He doesn’t go anywhere without either.

“The hat? So many people talk about it,” Orr said as we began discussing spring trainings past. “Truthfully, I have no idea how long I’ve been doing this. It’s like another home.

“Baseball is my thing,” said Orr, who lives in Hollidaysburg and winters in Sarasota, just a short hop from Pirate City. “I really love minor-league baseball. Double-A is where it’s at. That’s what separates the men from the boys.”

And, it also helps explain his passion for the Curve. He follows players from the time they’re drafted until they reach the major leagues — or don’t. He’s got books full of statistics at his side to prove it.

“I just love the Curve,” he said. “I get upset when people say they don’t like it. I mean, the ballpark, the food. Everything. What’s not to like?”

Orr admits he was a Braves fan until Blair County Ballpark and the Curve came to Altoona in 1999, and he’s been a fixture ever since, sitting in the bleachers so he can keep a close eye on the pitchers.

“I’ve had season tickets since the beginning – same seats–a Christmas present from my wife,” he said. “Our whole house revolves around the Curve.”

You can’t name a Curve player or manager, past or present, who Orr doesn’t know. Batting coach Kevin Riggs stopped by to chat. So did Josh Bell.

“You become attached to a lot of them,” he said, then noting: “Of course, Adam Hyzdu and Josh Bonifay were special. I’m so happy to see Josh finally get a break.”

Although the Pirates never promoted Bonifay, a proficient home run hitter, beyond Double-A, Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister, who was in the Pirate organization many years, has added Bonifay to his American League coaching staff.

A lifelong baseball junkie, Orr says Mickey Mantle was his all-time favorite big leaguer and, said he knew Chipper Jones was a can’t miss prospect when he saw him play in Durham years ago. “Chipper could do it all — even then,” Orr noted.

Orr just doesn’t follow the Curve during the summer. His 2017 schedule includes trips to Charleston, W. Va., Indianapolis, Portland and Morgantown for minor league games. He’s also going to St. Louis to check out the Cards’ recent new home.

WBC, and more …

While Orr and I were chatting, Pirate GM Neal Huntington came by for what became an interesting visit where the talk included the World Baseball Classic, referred to by Huntington as the “Globalization of the Game.”

Curve owner Bob Lozinak has been a frequent visitor to Pirate City. Altoonans Bob and Jane Lynn also were seen at the ballpark this week.

Jean and Joan hit the autograph trail immediately and were successful in tracking down several Buccos the first week — Jordy Mercer, John Jaso, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, David Freese, Josh Harrison, Gregory Polanco, Tyler Glasnow, Jared Hughes, Gerrit Cole, Dovydas Neverauskas, Jacob Stallings and Joey Cora.

Duane Bordell informs that he’s bringing a bus group to Florida next month to take in spring training games at Bradenton, Fort Myers and Lakeland. Contact Bordell for more info about the trip.

Among our restaurant stops this week were Popi’s, Chick-fil -A, Duff’s, Salem’s Gyros, and the Elks Club.

Until next week …

Lane, a retired sports editor of the Mirror, writes from Florida in the winter.