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Bucs’ GM likes what he’s heard about Curve

The Pirates’ new general manager, Ben Cherington, said he’s only ever been to Altoona one time — about 20 years ago — but he has learned a lot in his time on the new job about the Curve franchise and its place among the Bucs’ affiliates.

“I’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback from people I work with the Pirates about Altoona,” Cherington said. “I definitely look forward to getting there as soon as baseball will allow us to get there.”

Baseball was supposed to be played Thursday night in Altoona, but the Curve’s season opener is delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus.

This would be an important year for the Curve and Pirates from a relationship building standpoint, since the major league club has new leadership in the front office.

Curve officials got along extremely well, they’ve said repeatedly, from a business standpoint with former Pirates President Frank Coonelly, who has been replaced by Travis Williams. Cherington replaced Neal Huntington, who, like Coonelly, made numerous stops in Altoona over the years and was always supportive of the Curve franchise.

Now, members of the Bucs’ top brass are relative strangers to Altoona and the Curve, and this baseball season would have helped change that.

Instead, everyone is wondering if there will even be a minor league season, and if not, it would delay the relationship building between the Double-A officials and the new members of the Pirates’ front office.

The Curve’s player development contract with the Pirates runs through the 2022 season, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be renewed beyond that. Still, it could only help both sides if the Bucs’ new front office members would be able to make it over to Altoona for several games this year to find out first hand what the Curve offer the organization and the community.

“The Pirates have been a part of our family in Altoona, and they have consistently supplied both players and instructors that have represented the Curve organization in excellent fashion both on and off the field,” Curve general manager Derek Martin said. “We couldn’t be prouder to be a Pirates affiliate and a part of the Pirates family.

“Like in any business or partnership, relationships are king, especially in the baseball business,” Martin added. “In our role at the Curve, we honestly work closer with Pirates President Travis Williams and farm director Larry Broadway, but in our couple conversations with Ben, he has been great.”

Cherington met Curve officials at the winter meetings in December. If he didn’t know much about Curve owner Bob Lozinak before then, he certainly found out a lot, as Lozinak was awarded the prestigious King of Baseball honor.

“Just how much it means to the family and also the community,” Cherington said of what he likes about the Curve franchise. “We’ve all been in places that have baseball teams that either mean a lot to the group that owns the team and the community, or are just sort of a baseball team and a business. Certainly, everything I’ve heard about the Curve is that it’s in the former category.

“It’s a really important relationship for the Pirates, and I am learning more about that relationship. … We’re looking forward to that continuing.”

Martin added, “We are here to support Ben with his goals and to be there for his players and coaching staff while they are in Altoona. I look forward to Ben’s first trip to Altoona to show him our award-winning Peoples Natural Gas Field and continue to build a strong relationship with him.”

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