Record-setting crowd starts 19th year in Altoona
Whether it was the Josh Gallagher appearance, good weather or the excitement of seeing a new team, the Curve’s home opener Thursday night turned out to be one of the most memorable in franchise history.
The club obliterated the record for largest crowd in a home opener, drawing 7,313 fans to Peoples Natural Gas Field. That easily topped the previous high of 6,736 in 2008.
It’s impossible to know just how much of the big crowd was there to see Gallagher, the Cresson native who rose to fame on “The Voice,” but it’s probably safe to say it was a very big number. Gallagher sang the national anthem before the game, “God Bless America” in the seventh inning and put on a show afterwards, with pretty much the entire crowd sticking around to watch.
“Words can’t describe how pleased I am on how much community support we have, how hard the staff has worked and to have the talent of Josh Gallagher come to Peoples Natural Gas field,” Derek Martin said after his memorable first home game as Curve general manager. “All the stars aligned with the weather and all that. I couldn’t be more pleased and more proud of the staff and the product the team put out on the field tonight.”
The game itself was played in 61-degree weather to start, a tad chilly because of the wind but still much, much better than most frigid home openers in recent years. Then the Curve went out and won in a well-played contest, 3-2 over Akron, with second baseman Kevin Kramer belting two homers.
“It’s really awesome to see the support from the community and all the people that come out to watch the game,” outfielder Jordan Luplow said. “Especially for most of us (being) our first time here, it’s pretty cool to see.”
Ryan’s big night
The game also marked the first at home for new Curve manager Michael Ryan, an Indiana native who had lots of family on hand to enjoy the evening and getting a win to boot.
During his postgame news conference, Ryan answered questions while surrounded by his two sons, older brother and three nephews.
“I’ll never forget this moment, got to spend this with my family and had a bunch of aunts, uncles, my wife was here,” Ryan said. “To get a win makes it that much more special.”
Lefty Brandon Waddell was scheduled to start for the Curve but was scratched.
“He had some issue with his elbow, a little soreness in his shoulder, so we just wanted to skip his start just as a precaution so it didn’t get any worse,” Ryan said. “He’ll make his next one.”
Waddell said, “Everything’s good as of right now” and also added he plans to make his next start.
The manager usually coaches third base in the minor leagues, but Ryan is opting to use coach Greg Picart in that role.
“I just felt like I wanted to, especially with the National League games, be able to control the dugout,” Ryan said. “It’s a lot harder to try to, if you have a double switch that has to come up like that, somebody makes the last out, to communicate with the bench … on who you want up or you want to come into the game while you’re coaching third.
“We’re on the same page right when I get into the dugout. We’ve got an extra coach now, so I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Picart, a former Curve player (2011-12), has third base coaching experience, handling those duties for then-manager Tom Prince at high-A Bradenton in 2014.