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Coonelly praises Curve

Manager Ryan wins 500th career game

The Curve will wrap up the home portion of their 21st season tonight, and the relationship between the franchise and the Pirates remains as strong as ever.

“We absolutely love our relationship here in Altoona with the Curve, its ownership team, management team,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said during a visit to Peoples Natural Gas Field on Wednesday night.

“The community of Altoona really supports our players, our team, our staff. The players who have come up through the Pirates’ system always speak fondly of their time in Altoona.”

Coonelly sat with Curve owners Bob and Joan Lozinak and senior advisor Sal Baglieri to watch the home team pound Akron, 8-1, before 3,850 fans. The Curve won their third in a row and are back to one game above .500 entering tonight’s home finale, then they’ll close the season with a four-game series at Harrisburg.

Wednesday’s victory marked a milestone, as it was Curve manager Michael Ryan’s 500th career win in the minor leagues. Ryan is 500-462 in his seventh season as a manager, has won two league titles (one with Altoona in 2017) and would have a sixth winning season in seven years if the Curve can finish above .500.

Coonelly praised PNG Field, which is a big part of why the Pirates and Curve have such a strong relationship.

“This is a great facility, one of the best in all of minor league baseball,” Coonelly said. “Eastern League field of the year, what a great accomplishment, and well deserved. It looks beautiful. That’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears by a crew that really cares about the field and about the players who play on it.”

Ryan also frequently praises his home ballpark and gorgeous playing surface.

“Anything that’s been around 20 years it’s going to start to look old,” Ryan said. “This place still looks brand new. You look at the brand new surface, how beautiful it is, you get field of the year, the scoreboard — when you walk into the stadium it looks brand new and looks like it’s been built last year.”

“It just shows you the pride that they take in keeping it up to date and making improvements. It’s such a great place to come and watch a game.”

Even more important than Altoona’s impressive facility, Coonelly noted, is the personal relationships that have long existed between the Pirates and the Curve.

“It’s really the people who own the team, run the team and the people in the community that make this such a special place for our players,” he said.

“This is a great baseball community. Great baseball is played here at the youth level, and that translates into great baseball fans and huge fans of the Curve. We see so many of them at PNC Park, and it’s great to see them here and out in Pittsburgh.”

Ryan said the Curve-Pirates relationship is as good as it gets in the minor leagues.

“It’s an hour and a half from Pittsburgh, it’s a Pirate affiliate, the Curve franchise is run just like the Pirates as far as doing it the right way, caring about people, making it a family atmosphere, supporting veterans, you can go on and on and on,” Ryan said.

“They just don’t bring anybody in to work here. They bring in special people, people that work hard and people that take the Pittsburgh mindset along with them every day.”

Winning also has long been a staple of the Curve-Pirates relationship. Altoona has reached the playoffs nine times in its 21 seasons and won two league titles, so Curve fans are accustomed to seeing not only future Pirates in their own backyard, but also winning teams and good baseball.

“We love to see our players coming through the minor leagues have opportunities to play under pressure and to play in winning environments,” Coonelly said.

“We celebrate the championships of teams like that Altoona Curve team of 2017 had. And we saw it the last time (with the Curve’s 2010 EL title), it was really the group that came up to Pittsburgh and won in ’13, ’14 and 15. We’re looking to that influx of talent in Pittsburgh as we move forward.”

Game recap

Key player: LHP Sean Brady (5-12) held Akron, a team he pitched for earlier this season before getting released by the Indians, to one run on six hits over seven innings. Brady’s strong outing followed up his nine-inning shutout at Bowie on Friday.

Key play: The Curve grabbed a 3-1 lead with three runs in the third off Akron starter Adam Scott (4-5), getting a two-run go-ahead single from 1B Jerrick Suiter. LF Chris Sharpe also hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Key stat: The Curve’s Michael Ryan won the 500th game of his minor league managerial career.

How they scored

Top 2nd: Brooks singled, scored on Pantoja single (0-1).

Bottom 3rd: Cruz singled, Sharpe walked, both scored on Suiter single (2-1); Oliva walked, scored on Jackson single (3-1).

Bottom 4th: Cruz walked, scored on Sharpe two-run homer (5-1).

Bottom 5th: Suiter singled, scored on Valerio double (6-1); Jackson walked, scored on Salazar wild pitch (7-1); Cruz single scored Valerio (8-1).

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