BY ANDREW KULYK AND PETER FARRELL
This was one of those “feel good homestands” at Coca Cola Field in downtown Buffalo this past weekend, as the Buffalo Bisons paid homage to their parent club, the Toronto Blue Jays, and their strong relationships and synergies with our Canadian friends by hosting a Blue Jays weekend. The warm temperatures helped with the crowds, who were into the games with full throated support of the team. The Bisons split the two weekend games, while taking three of four against the Pawtucket Red Sox to climb back to the .500 mark.
The team passed out Marcus Stroman bobbleheads to the fans on Saturday, and pennants for the kids on Sunday. The team wore powder blue Jays throwback jerseys throughout the weekend, Toronto’s signature add on 7th inning stretch song, “OK Blue Jays” was sung in Buffalo, and blast from the past video clips of great Jays moments were shown on the HD board throughout both contests.
Despite the team’s early stumbles, they are very much keeping pace in the IL North Division standings, with plenty of baseball left to be played.
“These are great Buffalo fans, I’m always amazed at how much they know their baseball and how much they are into sports,” said a beaming Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays from 1981 to 1989 and won two gold gloves in the majors, along with leading the American League in 1986 with 40 home runs.
Barfield and his then teammate Devon White, himself a gold glover and with the Jays for both their World Series championships in the 90s, were both on hand to meet and greet fans and participate in a 90 minute autograph session on Sunday.
The Bisons are slowly climbing out of the basement after a very difficult month of April. They completed this weekend homsetand 5-2 and ended the weekend coasting with an 11-5 record in the past 16 games. “I’m happy with the way we’ve been playing on the road” said Bisons manager Gary Allenson as the team prepared for a trip to Columbus to play the tough Clippers team.
Toronto relief pitcher Aaron Loup got to see his first action in a Bisons uniform this past Sunday and got an inning of work in. “He threw strikes. That’s important, I think he struggled in a couple of games at A ball and had to throw a lot of pitches. But for now that’s as good as we need.,” said Allenson. Buffalo fans also a good deal of first baseman Devon Travis, also down on a rehab assignment and it looks like he might be with the team for a while as he gets his mechanics back. Travis was 5 for 17 at the plate in four games for a .294 average.
Meanwhile, up in Toronto it has been a rocky and roller coaster week for the parent Blue Jays, who were demolished at home by the Tampa Bay Rays before settling things down with the woeful Minnesota Twins. Manager John Gibbons was ejected for 3 games and suspended for another 3 games. The suspension came for Gibbons after he had been ejected from the game, then returned to the field to take part in a brawl on the field with the Texas Rangers. The wording in the suspension was that he had been “inciting fighting”.
Barfield knows what pressure exists on the Jays that comes with the high expectations, after winning the AL East last season and coming oh so close to the World Series. “We won the division in 1985, and then things didn’t go so well the following year despite keeping most of the team together and everyone expecting us to just walk right in. I can tell you now that it’s still early up in Toronto, the team isn’t that far off and they have plenty of time to make things right.” Barfield did not go so far as make any predictions on the season, except to say there’s still a long way to go and that it’s anyone’s division.
Nonetheless, chaos could reign with the Buffalo Bisons roster sooner than later as things are getting more stressful in Toronto, with an underperforming offense and a bullpen which has blown up again and again. Jays President Mark Shapiro has given his nod of confidence to manager Gibbons despite the chaos in the dugout and on the field this past week and a half. Shapiro is not ruling out trades, “we’re looking at adding players for the short term and the long term” he said on a radio interview on The Fan 590 this past week.
Buffalo fans can only shudder remembering the dismantling of the team last summer when the Jays gave up the store to land David Price. The next few weeks should be interesting, to say the least.
AROUND THE BASES
-If you’re following the WCC mascot race at Coca Cola Field, Atomic Wing’s perfect 17-0 streak came to a crashing end this past Friday, when he was suspended for the weekend for cheating, caught on film for “using illegal condiments”. This could get ugly. Oh, and Celery is still winless.