It’s a match made in proximity heaven.
As far as affiliates go, it’s a surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays weren’t linked to the Triple-A farm club 99 miles down the highway sooner.
Friday afternoon, Buffalo Bisons’ owner and president Bob Rich Jr. and Bisons’ GM Mike Buczkowski welcomed a group of baseball dignitaries from his new major league parent club.
The occasion was a press conference to officially announce the two-year partnership at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo.
“It’s apparent that they have a love for (the Blue Jays) organization,” Buczkowski said, of the significance of having Blue Jays legends Cito Gaston, Robbie Alomar and Pat Hentgen at the presser.
“It doesn’t get any bigger for Blue Jays people and their commitment to us. This is not a relationship that’s going to start on opening day and end on Labour Day.”
The Bisons have been a Triple-A club since 1985, and the Herd has been blanketed under four different parent clubs in that time period. The most recent vacancy is left by the New York Mets, who have swapped clubs with the Blue Jays, signing a deal with the Las Vegas 51’s of the Pacific Coast League.
“Aligning with the Blue Jays not only gives the Bisons a great regional partner, but also aligns us with one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball,” said Rich Jr., in a press release by the Bisons.
“Toronto has a well-documented commitment to developing exciting young talent throughout their farm system.”
Despite a seemingly good regional fit with the Mets, the draw wasn’t there. The Bisons met barely half of capacity on the final game of the 2012 season, with just 9,091 in attendance.
Buffalo has had 18 winning seasons in 25 years at Coca-Cola Field, and won three league championships — something that the strong Blue Jays farm system could very well bring back to the city.
The short drive from the top minor league farm to Toronto is a major draw, and the two organizations think it will be mutually beneficial to be able to follow a player’s journey 90 minutes away.
“We feel that this relationship is going to grow and last for a long time,” said Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz. “We have so much in common with our friends in South Western Ontario.”
To finish the conference, Alomar, Gaston, and Hentgen brought out Blue Jays jerseys with the names of the Buffalo executives on the back, atop the number ‘1’.
Although the Blue Jays have signed a two-year player development contract, Paul Beeston isn’t shy about his own ideas for the partnership.
“We want to become part of this community and make sure the marriage is a great marriage and I’m sure that it will be,” Beeston said.
“We want to be here for years … hopefully it’s the start of a 42-year deal.”
Coca-Cola Field will go blue for the first time on Opening Day, Thurs., April 4, 2013 against the Rochester Red Wings.