ALTOONA, Pa. – Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke has temporarily joined the organization’s Class AA club in Altoona. But he won’t arrive in town until Saturday.
No worries. On Friday night, Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis took the mound.
Dupuis “shot the first puck” at Peoples Natural Gas Field, home of the Curve, in an innovative take on the baseball tradition of throwing out the first pitch.
Instead of throwing a baseball to the catcher at home plate, per the usual custom, Dupuis shot a puck off a board from the mound toward home plate. Backstopping the plate was a young girl wearing goaltending equipment to keep with the theme.
“It was fun,” Dupuis said. “It’s such a nice ballpark. It’s a nice day. Just to see the people in a baseball atmosphere, they all love the Penguins around here.”
Oddly enough, shooting a puck off the a mound isn’t that new to Dupuis. Three years ago that he did the exact same thing before a Curve game.
“It’s a little bit different,” Dupuis said of shooting off the board. “Last time I guess they put it the wrong way. This time I didn’t expect the puck to take off.
“The little girl had to make a save with her chest instead of her glove. I feel bad, I hit the little girl in the mask. But that’s why she was wearing equipment, is what she said. At least she made the save.”
Dupuis was given a custom-made Curve jersey that featured his name and the No. 9 on the back. He did a pregame interview, which was aired throughout the stadium. And Dupuis finished the day by signing autographs for the hundreds of fans that lined up to greet him, showing the amazing reach of Penguins fans.
“They all love the Penguins and have stuff to get signed,” he said. “They’re excited about taking pictures. You can tell it’s Pittsburgh country around here, too.”
This is the fourth straight year that the Penguins have had a player shoot out the first puck in Altoona. It all started with Dupuis in 2010, followed by Matt Cooke (2011) and James Neal (2012).
Dupuis will also serve as the spokesperson for Ballou Skies, a Pittsburgh-based charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. On Saturday, Dupuis will be taking part in the “Under the Ballou Skies” charity bike ride at 8 a.m. at the boathouse in North Park.