The State College Spikes, since changing their affiliation to the Pittsburgh Pirates in their second year of existence, have used "The Bucs Start Here" as a marketing slogan.
The 2011 class of the State College Spikes, introduced Thursday at Medlar Field, knows that is starting to come true - two former Spikes have taken the field for the Pirates this year.
Daniel Moskos, who played 11 games in State College in 2007, became the first Spikes player to reach the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he tossed a scoreless inning in relief April 30 at Colorado. Tony Watson, another 2007 Spike, pitched in relief for the Pirates in their June 8 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park.
State College's inaugural team (2006), which was affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, has yielded seven major leaguers to date.
Field preparation was in process Thursday, but not for the Spikes' home opener, which is Sunday. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is playing host to the PIAA baseball championship games today.
The quadruple-header begins with the Class AAA contest at 10:30 a.m. Class A is at 1 p.m., Class AA at 3:30 and the big schools finish in the 6 p.m. nightcap. Simultaneously, Penn State's new softball stadium will be hosting the finals in that sport.
The Pirates and their minor-league affiliates - two in the New-York Penn League - have been successful at attracting the state baseball championships. They moved from Altoona, the Bucs' Double-A home, to State College this year. The title games were played prior to that at historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, where Pittsburgh had its short-season Class A affiliation before State College.
Sunday's home opener starts at 6:05 p.m.; gates open at 3:30. Two local bands will perform before the game. Sky Dive Happy Valley will drop into the ballpark from 5,000 feet to deliver the ceremonial first ball of the season, which former PSU basketball star Talor Battle will use to throw the first pitch. Battle will sign autographs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The home opener will be the third game of the SawBuck Series with Williamsport. The Crosscutters host the first two Friday and Saturday. Sunday's game is the first of a four-game home stand, with three of the contests against the Auburn Doubledays. After a short road trip, the Spikes come home June 29 for a five-game run that includes another visit by Auburn.
Auburn's affiliation changed for this season from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Washington Nationals. Auburn was the starting point in the pros for McClure native Matt Wright, once a fixture in the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League.
Mifflin-Juniata night is on the calendar for Sunday, July 31. Last year's Mifflin-Juniata game drew the biggest crowd in Spikes' history.
Nick Kingham gets the nod as the first pitcher for the Spikes this season, slated to start tonight at Bowman Field. He's a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft who was going to play college ball at Oregon before opting to join the Pirates organization.
Stetson Allie, a second-round pick and the highest-rated prospect on the team, is scheduled to make his pro debut Monday. Allie spent three weeks at the end of last season in State College without pitching.