Hague remembers the joys of Curve’s EL 2010 title | News, Sports, Jobs

Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski Fisher Cats hitting coach Matt Hague is a former Altoona Curve player.

One of the most reliable and productive players in Curve history is back in town this week, 12 years after helping the club win their first memorable Eastern League championship.

Matt Hague was a big reason this Curve club won the title, serving as a key bat in the middle of the drive.

“That ring was fun,” said Hague with a smile. “I still have the ring in my house. It’s just something you look back on, no matter where you are, a championship is always special.

Hague had not returned to Altoona since the end of the 2010 season, until his return this week as hitting coach for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The 36-year-old is in his second season in this role after retiring as a player after the 2018 season.

Hague had a fantastic season for the Curve in 2010, completing 86 runs, which ranks fifth in franchise history. The first baseman hit .295 with 15 homers, 30 doubles and an .817 OPS, while drawing 61 walks to go with just 62 strikeouts.

The guy might just hit. No doubt about it. Hague posted big numbers and always seemed to do well in the clutch of a team that featured outstanding offense.

The core group of this 2010 team was The Hague infielder at the start, Jordy Mercer at second, Chase d’Arnaud at court and Josh Harrison at third.

Harrison is still playing in the majors, while Mercer just retired a few weeks ago. That team’s pitcher Justin Wilson is also still in the majors, and Tony Watson retired last week.

This Curve team was loaded, to say the least, and Hague was just as good – if not better – than all those guys in 2010.

“There were like 10 or 11 big leaguers who played on this team, and that’s pretty unheard of,” said The Hague.

“It was a special group. Not only were we all very good friends, but we played well together. It was a weird combination that we kind of found with each other and then added with the older guys we already had.

Many of those players had won the championship at high-A Lynchburg in 2010 and then done the same with the Curve a year later.

Hague’s favorite memory was building personal relationships with these teammates.

“Going back up the system with the same guys we won the year before in Lynchburg, just making those memories with the team we had and the support we had here,” he said.

This Curve team created many, many special memories on the court in 2010.

“What jumps out at me is that I remember very well that we didn’t come out of any game,” The Hague called back. “Like those two 10-run innings that we came back (against Harrisburg).

“There are a lot of memories, and of course the champagne and the party when you celebrate the ring at the end of the year. … The stadium here, the atmosphere and the environment that the stadium offers was different from this that we had in high-A.”

Hague played 10 seasons in the minor leagues and compiled a career average of .298. Again, the guy could hit flat.

But despite all his success in the minor leagues, Hague only played 43 games in the majors. He’s always been kind of a weird man in personal situations, preventing him from really getting an extended hit at game time.

For example, Hague hit .400 for the Pirates in spring training 2012, tearing up seven homers with 14 RBIs in just 55 at-bats. He received the famous nickname “the hit collector” by then-manager Clint Hurdle.

That didn’t matter much, however, once the regular season started. Hague played in just 30 games for the Pirates in 2012, batting .229 on 70 no-hitters and seven RBIs. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

He got just two other major league opportunities – for three games with the Pirates in 2014 and 10 games with the Blue Jays in 2015.

Think about it: A guy who batted .298 in the minor leagues and had gargantuan spring training a year only got a chance to play in 43 major league games.

So, I asked Hague why he doesn’t think he’s ever had a long shot.

“Honestly, the guys were really good who were in front of me” he said, seemingly at peace with it all. “I was a corner guy and didn’t hit a lot of power, and I think that’s something that’s appreciated in the corner position.

“Looking back now, I wasn’t as athletic as a lot of those guys were.”

Hague played a season in Japan in 2016 and remembers facing Curve legend Brad Eldred there.

“He hit a lot of homers against us” said Hague, recalling that Eldred was so much bigger than anyone playing in Japan.

Hague returned to the minor leagues in 2017 and played Triple-A his final two seasons before making it his career.

You’d think Hague found his perfect role as a hitting coach, considering he’s been such a productive hitter over his career. He also seems to have the right personality for it – a humble demeanor and a passion for helping others improve.

“On the training side now, it shows them what they’re really good at, where they need work, focused work to help them develop,” said The Hague. “Basically, I’m just trying to inspire them with confidence in the drilling work or provide them with the why of everything.

“The ultimate goal as a coach is to really help them accelerate their development, through experiences, through awareness of things. I love being in the season with them and diving deep with them.

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