There may never be a better or more special Curve team than the 2010 Eastern League championship squad, and that club was well represented on the Pirates' roster Saturday.
"It's an honor to come back here and play this game today, especially for the guys that have been here before," Bucs pitcher Jeff Locke said. "It's a lot of fun to be back."
Locke is one of five members of the Pirates who played on that Curve championship team in 2010. Pitchers Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and infielder Josh Harrison also are on the Bucs' roster, and all of them played key roles in helping claim the first professional title in Altoona history.
"To be back is definitely exciting, just to relive some of those moments," Harrison said.
The 2010 season included historic moments such as Stephen Strasburg pitching in Altoona in his minor league debut and Andy Pettitte pitching here for Trenton in the EL Championship team.
As special as those moments were, the Curve team that took the field every day was every bit as special. It was an outstanding team in every way, one that could win any type of game and posted an 82-60 record before beating Harrisburg and Trenton in the playoffs to capture the league crown.
"Nobody was going to stop that team from winning," Locke said. "It was as competitive and talented of a baseball team that I ever played on in my life up to that point."
Perhaps the only disappointing thing about that season was that the team won the championship on the road in Trenton, so the home fans didn't get to celebrate with the players. Some fans did, however, as a large group made the trip to Trenton.
"My best memory was when we actually won the championship in Trenton, there were a ton of people in Curve gear rooting for us at that game," Hughes said. "It's one of those things where you don't really expect it when you go on the road in the minor leagues to have your home fans there, but we won that championship, we actually had people that were celebrating with us in the stands."
Wilson was fantastic in the postseason that year and was named MVP of the EL playoffs.
"Winning," Wilson said of his memories of 2010. "Everything's better in any kind of season when you're winning. Everything's real fun, everyone gets along a little bit better, and everyone usually plays a little bit better, too.
"That was an extremely fun year. We had some great players on that team, and we all played well together."
There are 10 former Curve players on the Pirates this season. The others: outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Jose Tabata, third baseman Pedro Alvarez and second baseman Neil Walker.
Several of them talked about how strange it felt being in the visitors' clubhouse at PNG Field, but they also recalled fond memories of their time in Altoona. The memories are especially sweet for the members of the 2010 championship club.
"It's some of the most fun I ever had in the minor leagues," Locke said.