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Lozinak achievement award fit for a ‘king’

(Editor’s note: Bob Jubelirer represented Blair County as state senator from 1975 to 2006 and was the Senate’s president pro tempore from 1984-2006).

When news broke recently that Altoona Curve owner and my good friend Bob Lozinak would be receiving minor league’s baseball’s highest honor — called “The King of Baseball” — tonight at the annual winter meetings in San Diego, I could not help but take a trip down memory lane.

I’m very fortunate to have been quite involved when Lozinak first bought the team and when the Eastern League awarded a franchise to Altoona in 1998.

For those who don’t recall, we were competing with officials from Springfield, Massachusetts, for a spot in the Eastern League, and getting that, along with the affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in my estimation, were keys to the Curve’s success.

Quick history: Tate DeWeese had an idea for a minor league baseball team here, but he needed funding.

I knew Bob Lozinak from our days in high school at Altoona. We both graduated in 1955. We had gone our separate ways, but I knew he owned the Albuquerque Dukes and was always interested in baseball.

With the help of my aides, Mike Long and Dave Atkinson, who were both big baseball fans, we jumped on it. I called Lozinak, and he was very interested.

I believe certain things happen in life that are predetermined by higher powers, and this was one of them.

The fact that Lozinak and I graduated together from Altoona High School, well, the timing was perfect, and everything fell into place.

We originally thought it was going to be a Single-A team, but lo and behold, there was an opening in the Eastern League for a Double-A team, and frankly, because of Lozinak, who had the resources, we had the support from the commissioners to bring the minor league team to Altoona.

As president pro tempore of the Senate, I was able get money from the state to get this thing off the ground.

Tom Ridge was the governor, who I had worked very well with. He helped us at the beginning, and without him, it wouldn’t have happened.

Lozinak and DeWeese had their disagreements — Tate had ideas, but he could be difficult to work with — and Bob eventually ended up selling his share of the team to Chuck Greenberg, who turned out to be a tremendous owner.

We had a great relationship with Chuck. He was a great owner and, after Tate passed away, Chuck later sold it back to Bob and his wife, Joan, and I think it all turned out to be fitting.

I had season tickets in the early days of the Curve and still enjoy coming to the ballpark.

It just brings me such pride.

When I first ran for the Senate in 1974, the attitude in Altoona was, “We never get anything; Johnstown gets everything.”

To me, the Altoona Curve changed that. It changed attitudes.

I never saw anybody with a frown on their face. The team filled a vacuum and brought an important component of community pride, of it being ours.

In my book, “The Senate Will Come to Order,” I talk about my two most meaningful projects being the Curve and Bedford Springs, and I mean that.

We put so much work into those. Bringing Bedford Springs back saved Bedford County, and you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate what the Curve have meant to Altoona and this region.

For Bob to get this award tonight in San Diego gives me goose bumps.

I’m just so proud of him.

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