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Altoona draws record crowd to see Curve top Bucs

Altoona draws record crowd to see Curve top Bucs

You couldn't tell the teams apart when the Pirates visited the Curve for a long-awaited exhibition appearance at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Saturday. But you could easily tell Altoona's devotion to the Bucs, and the Pirates' and the Curve's appreciation for each other.

A record crowd of 10,116 jammed the park to see the hometown Double-A Curve outlast the big boys, 8-6.

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The qualifying quotation marks note the fact Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson -- who won -- all pitched for Altoona, and that Luis Angel Sanz, Jeff Inman, Tim Alderson and Nate Baker -- who lost -- pitched for Pittsburgh. Players taking the field for the Bucs included Dan Grovatt, Jesus Vasquez, Kirk Singer and Stefan Welch.

The Pirates' offensive highlight of the day came early, when Starling Marte clubbed a second-inning grand slam -- off his teammate, Watson. The irony there was that Marte, the Bucs' Opening Day left fielder and leadoff hitter, had just concluded Major League Spring Training with one RBI in 62 at-bats.

Even before the victory in only its second exhibition meeting in 13 years with the parent club, it was a red-letter baseball day for Altoona.

The day began with announcement the Pirates and the Curve had agreed to extend their player-development relationship for four more seasons, through 2018.

Then, the Eastern League reveled that its All-Star Game would be returning to Altoona on July 16, 2014.

The last time the Curve served as host to the Eastern League All-Stars, in 2006, a crowd of 9,308 attended the game in People Natural Gas Field. That was the record shattered by nearly a thousand at the Saturday exhibition, which wrapped up the Bucs' '13 preseason.

Following Sunday's free-to-the-public workout at PNC Park (1-3 p.m. ET), the Pirates will set sail on the '13 season on Monday, with a 1:35 p.m. date with the Chicago Cubs.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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