The Altoona Curve have a three-game lead in the Eastern League’s Western Division, but there’s always room for a power boost. With that in mind, the Curve will add 462 home runs worth of juice to their lineup on Saturday, May 20, when Jose Canseco makes an appearance at People’s Natural Gas Field.
No, Canseco obviously won’t be signing a contract with the Pirates and joining Double-A. Instead, he’ll be part of a pregame home run derby that should attract plenty of interested onlookers. He’ll join a field that includes Brett Weibley and George Roberts—two Kent State alumni who each played professionally—Altoona youth league coach Tony Miller, YMCA director Frank Kopriva, Pitt-Johnstown outfielder and local product Brett Hileman, Altoona mayor Matt Pacifico and Curve strength coach Joe Schlesinger.
Combine Canseco’s appearance with a postgame fireworks show and the second of two consecutive nights, and the crowd in Altoona is expected to be one of the better ones of the season.
“We were looking at a Saturday in central Pennsylvania, which is tough because you don’t know what the weather is going to be like,” Curve general manager Derek Martin said. “I wanted us to sell out, so I thought ‘This is a good way to see how an event likes this takes off.'”
The idea to have Canseco out to the park started coming together during the offseason, when Canseco’s people were sending out feelers to minor league general managers that he would open to these types of things. When that word reached Altoona, Martin’s interest was more than a little piqued.
“They gave the idea that they’d be willing to talk about possible home run derby contests” Martin said. “He would some challenge some contestants from the local areas, so we’ll have some former Curve players who live around the area, and that’s a good tie-in.”
If Saturday’s showcase goes well, Martin said, the Curve will definitely explore making it a yearly event, albeit with a rotating cast of sluggers instead of Canseco every year.
“Whether it’s him or somebody else, it might create something that we start a trend that we do with former major leaguers to get them to come through if the community has fun with it,” Martin said. “It has definitely gotten a lot of buzz in the community; people are very excited about it.”