John Prosperi remembers how excited everyone was when the Pirates came to Altoona in 2000.

The Curve had arrived in Altoona in 1999, and that was a big enough deal even before the major league club came to town for an exhibition game. Prosperi, president of the Curve booster club, still has a picture from that day on his refrigerator.

On Saturday, the Pirates return to Altoona for an exhibition against their Double-A affiliate for the first time since then, and Prosperi said it's far more exciting now.

“So many of the players on the (Pirates) have come through Altoona,” he said. “There's a bond there with these people. I think it's beyond exciting, over the top, really.”

The Pirates' 2012 Opening Day roster featured 10 former Curve players, including Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. The connection between the community and the players who come through Altoona is strong. Players sometimes live with host families.

Members of the booster club not only shuttle players but also their families to and from the airport and provide water and snacks for long bus trips, Prosperi said.

Many still keep in touch with the players after they've moved on.

“I think based on the fact that the thing's been sold out how many months is a tribute to the Pirates but also shows the community support for the game,” Prosperi said. “I can't imagine how people can't be excited. … Unfortunately it's the time of year the weather (will be cold) but I don't think it's going to stop too many people. I think people are really going to be into this.”