Jun. 11—Steve Clawson made a special trip on U.S. Route 22, driving over the mountain to Altoona on Thursday afternoon.
The Ferndale Area High School baseball coach and athletic director didn’t mind logging the miles to the Altoona Curve ticket office.
He wasn’t alone. Tickets to Friday night’s Curve home game suddenly became a hot commodity throughout the Johnstown region.
Plans for Trey McGough’s homecoming start will be pushed back a day, however.
A Yellow Jackets graduate and former AAABA Tournament pitcher, McGough is scheduled to make his first start at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Saturday as the Curve host the Akron RubberDucks at 4 p.m.
It’s the first game of a doubleheader necessitated by the Curve and RubberDucks being rained out on Thursday.
“It’s exciting. I’m excited for Trey,” said Clawson, who purchased 24 tickets to the game for Ferndale faculty members and friends and family of McGough on Thursday.
“I know how hard he’s worked for it. I’m excited to know he’ll have kind of a hometown crowd cheering for him.
“The fact that he’s moving up the system the way he is, I’m proud of him.”
On June 1, the Curve promoted McGough, a left-hander who had appeared in six games with Greensboro in High Class A this season. McGough made his first start on June 4 at the Richmond Flying Squirrels and struck out six while throwing a season-high 68 pitches in a 5-3 loss.
He allowed five hits and gave up two walks in his first outing at the Double-A level.
“I’m just super excited,” said McGough ahead of his second start.
“This is the first time I’ll see friends and family who weren’t able to see me play when I was in college.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected McGough out of Mount St. Mary’s University in the 24th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft.
The former Ferndale standout also played in the AAABA Tournament with Martella’s Pharmacy and was part of the region’s Flood City Elite program.
“I’m trying to treat it like it’s any other game,” McGough said of pitching in front of the Curve fans as well as his hometown supporters.
“I’m just trying to have fun and not make the situation bigger than it is. I want to stay in the situation I’ve created for myself during the past few weeks.”
McGough had 13 strikeouts and four walks in 18 innings with Greensboro.
He didn’t have a decision, but posted a 2.00 ERA.
In 2019, the lefty had a combined 3-1 record with a save while splitting time with Bristol in the Appalachian League at the rookie level and West Virginia in the Class A New York-Penn League.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.
“I’ve learned a lot about the game in general already in Double-A,” McGough said.
“It’s just different. I’ve learned a lot for sure.”
He also had an opportunity to swing a bat.
“It was great. It was a really good atmosphere,” McGough said of his debut with the Curve last week.
“It was nice to play and obviously my first start in Double-A. (Because the Curve-Pirates affiliation) is in the National League, I got to hit, too.
“I had one at-bat and I hit the second pitch, an 0-1 fastball. I hit it to third base, and the third baseman booted it so I got onto first base.”
McGough’s advancement in the Pirates system has local baseball fans and coaches excited.
“For a long time, I have enjoyed following local baseball players and their successes in college and professional baseball,” said Bishop McCort Catholic assistant coach John DeFazio, who had planned to attend Friday’s Curve game.
“It’s nice to be able to watch one of them play in person.
“My brother (Lou DeFazio) and I will visit 10 to 12 different ballparks this summer. We usually have a six-day road trip in six different cities. To see a local player makes it even more special.”
Flood City Elite owner/coach Rick Roberts mentored McGough for many years. A 10th-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1997, Roberts eventually advanced to the Triple-A level in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
He sees great potential in McGough, who was a part of the Flood City program since he was a 12-year-old. Roberts regretted that he can’t attend Friday’s game because he will be coaching a Flood City Elite team in a tournament at the University of North Carolina.
“It’s phenomenal,” Roberts said of McGough’s pitching at PNG Field.
“I know the organization likes him. He can throw four pitches for strikes. He’s a competitor.
“He’s a great kid. He’s knocking on the door. If you’re in Double-A, you can get a phone call — a phone call away (from the major leagues). He’s a good kid.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.