It's a wonderful feeling for any ballplayer to go home after getting a game-winning hit, but the Curve's Jarek Cunningham had even more than that to be thrilled about Thursday night.
Cunningham's wife, Ashley, and 9-week-old son, Jarek, are in town visiting for a few weeks. The 22-year-old infielder spoke about his role as hero of the game with some straightforward comments, but his eyes lit up and he cracked a big smile when talk turned to him being a daddy.
"Having him here is the best," said Cunningham, whose son is named after him but doesn't have a Jr. or II moniker.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The Curve’s Jarek Cunningham is caught in a rundown by the Phillies’ Ramon Cabrera between first and second base during Thursday night’s game against Reading.
Little Jarek was born April 30, and though he's not old enough to understand what his proud papa would be saying, he's certain to hear about the game-winning hit that gave the Curve a 4-2 victory over Reading before 3,346 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"Oh, I'll tell him about it," Cunningham said.
"Just being able to come home to him [Wednesday] night was huge. You just get a moment where, 'Wow, I'm a dad, it's not just about baseball anymore.' So it's a great feeling to have."
Tonight: Reading at Altoona, 7 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Matt McSwain (1-2, 5.29) vs. R-Phils LHP Mario Hollands (2-1, 5.00)
Covering the bases: Page B2
Cunningham was with the Curve in Erie - although on the disabled list with a wrist injury - when he got the call from his wife that her water had broken in late April. He flew to Phoenix the next morning to be with Ashley for the birth of their first child.
"Words can't describe it," Cunningham said of how happy he is to have his family in town for the next couple of weeks.
It's been a tough season for the second baseman as he battled the wrist injury and has struggled finding consistency in Double-A. But Cunningham came through in a big way Thursday to lead the Curve to victory.
Altoona led 2-0 entering the eighth before Reading scored twice off reliever Hunter Strickland to tie it.
Oscar Tejeda opened the bottom of the eighth with a double to left for the Curve, and with runners at the corners and one out, Cunningham ripped a pitch into left field for the go-ahead RBI. Quincy Latimore's run-scoring groundout provided an insurance run.
Cunningham went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs, the other on a single in the second inning, to get his average to .218.
"Hopefully it builds some confidence going forward," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said of Cunningham. "Every little bit helps, every little success helps. Hopefully it starts the ball rolling for him. You always hope that a game like this kick starts a guy."
Forbes sat out the game as he was serving a suspension from the Eastern League for the Curve's bench-clearing situation June 24 against Akron. (See Covering the bases for more on that).
Tim Alderson turned in a solid night for the Curve, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing four hits with six strikeouts and four walks. He was in line for the victory, but Strickland (1-0) wound up getting that in relief despite allowing two runs.
Vic Black closed it out in the ninth for his sixth save.
Forbes wasn't managing the game, but he liked what he saw from his team from a resiliency standpoint after a 1-0 loss Wednesday night.
"[That] was a difficult loss for us, and a nice bounce-back night for us all around," Forbes said.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Curve 2B Jarek Cunningham went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Key play: Cunningham's RBI single in the eighth gave the Curve a 3-2 lead.
Key stat: RHP Vic Black lowered his ERA to 1.25 with a scoreless ninth inning.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 2nd: Cabrera walked, scored on Cunningham single (1-0).
Bottom 3rd: Chambers walked, scored on Maggi single (2-0).
Top 8th: Ruf doubled, scored on Asche single (2-1); Castro singled, scored on Hanzawa sacrifice fly (2-2).
Bottom 8th: Tejeda doubled, scored on Cunningham single (3-2); Farrell intentionally walked, scored on Latimore groundout (4-2).