The Buffalo Bisons, the AAA International League affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, unveiled a brand new set of uniforms and caps for the 2013 today at a fan luncheon at the Adam's Mark Buffalo this afternoon. The previous set of Bisons uniforms were based on the New York Mets' theme of blue, black, and orange, so the club had to re-design the new logo and uniforms in an accelerated process following their new affiliation with the Blue Jays back in late September 2012.
I had a chance to connect with Ron Raccuia, president of ADPRO Sports, after the luncheon. ADPRO is a Buffalo-based company that worked with the Bisons on their re-branding.
"The Bisons came to us with a strong desire to return to their traditional logo and colors," Raccuia said, "we then made the necessary modernization" like the fonts, colours, sizing, and style. The company had to turn out the designs in a remarkably short time, "probably six to eight weeks total," recalls Raccuia, "a remarkable, efficient process" was carried out by both the Bisons and ADPRO staff.
Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski told Bluebird Banter that generally, minor league clubs that wish to re-brand files the request in June before submitting designs in the fall. The Bisons didn't plan to change their uniforms or logo unless they were going to change affiliates, and since the player development contract wasn't signed until late September, they had to speed up the entire process.
"It was a whirlwind," Buczkowski describes the re-branding exercise, "but we had a lot of good feedback going in. Last year was our 25th season in [Coca-Cola Field], and players wore our red-white-and-blue uniforms [from when the stadium opened]." The classic design outsold the Mets-style primary logo, Buczkowski explains, "that's a clue right there that people are really liking the red-white-and-blue!"
The Bisons home jerseys is a traditional white (the press release calls it "ice white") and features "BISONS", with an enlarged "B", in a block serif font across the front with a decorative swish underlining below. The letters are red ("scarlet") with a royal blue ("reflex blue") outline. Below the team name is the player's uniform number in solid blue with no outline. The underlining swish appears to be red with a blue outline, but the since the red does not extend all the way to the finial, it is almost like red on top of a blue field.
The back of the uniform features the player's surname in the generic block letterform with red letters (no outline) placed horizontally (not on an arc) on a white name plate rather than being sewn directly onto the uniform. The uniform number red with a blue outline. Buffalo's primary logo is featured on the right sleeve. The Russell Athletic logo is positioned on the back just below the collar. According to a club release, the jerseys were designed with Russell's "advanced air flow management technology and stretch power technology."
The belt, undershirt, and socks are red, and the pants are plain white except for the Russell logo on the left buttock. Unlike previous iterations of Bisons uniforms, the uniforms don't feature any sort of piping.
"We like the classic [uniforms]. We looked at the classic Dodgers' uniform--that ice white really makes everything pop on the uniform," comments Buczkowski.
I really like the simplicity of the uniform design, while still featuring the team colours of red, white, and blue in the front and the back.
The Bisons will be wearing a classic grey ("road gray") uniform top and pants for away games. The design is similar to the home uniform, except that instead of "BISONS" on the front, the uniform has "BUFFALO", also with an enlarged "B".
I much prefer the "BISONS" on the front of the home jersey to "BUFFALO" on the away version, probably because that font looks particularly bulky for a longer word. I'm also not a big fan of the blue number on grey, but I'm sure they wanted to go for uniformity in design. However, the red undershirt, socks, and belt are very eye-catching on the grey uniform base.
The alternate jerseys show off the Buffalo Bisons' connections with the Toronto Blue Jays. The uniform tops are bright red ("scarlet red") and features the Bisons' primary logo on the left breast and player's uniform number, in white Blue Jays split-lettering, on the bottom right. Interesting, the jersey still features a large break between the second button from the top to the third, despite it not having lettering that spans both sides of the top.
The design of the back of the jersey is very similar to what is on the Blue Jays' alternate jersey, with the player's surname in white block lettering and his number in white split lettering. However, the Bisons' version has the player's name on a red name plate while the Blue Jays' version has the name directly sewn on. The Russell logo is in white and appears right below the collar.
Either white or grey pants will be worn with the alternate jersey, depending if the club is at home or away.
Since the primary logo already appears on the front, the right sleeve is populated by a "friendship flags" patch, featuring the a simplified version of the United States flag (24 stars!) on the left, crossing over the Canadian flag, which is on the right.
For me, the positioning of the number on the front is just too weird, and that makes the alternate my least favourite uniform out of the three, although I do like the attempt at connecting with the parent club with the use of the split-letter font as well as the colour. Raccuia said that the number had to be placed there to "create balance on the shirt, if both the logo crest and the number were on the left that shirt would look disproportioned." If it were my design I would have solved the balance problem by just not including the number.
Ben Wagner, the radio voice of the Bisons, disagreed with me when I asked him about it, saying, "I really like the red alternate. It has a sharp color and the contrast with the numbers really allows the top to pop whether you looking at it up close or in your seat looking out at the center fielder. I'm a big fan of the numbers being on front of all three uniform tops. The font provides perfect a synergy for the Bisons and Blue Jays and is another example the both parties are working, and playing, together."
Update: I asked uniform scholar Paul Lukas (of ESPN and Uni-Watch) and he informed me that the uniform number placement is not unique, and that the Cincinnati Reds did the same with their road jerseys in the late 1990s. Thanks Paul!
Home and Away
The Bisons' new primary cap will be worn for both home and away games. It is a New Era 59-FIFTY-style fitted cap with a blue ("reflex blue") base and a red ("scarlet red") bill and a blue button on top. The cap logo features the Bisons "B" in red with a blue outline, similar to the first letter in their uniform front, superimposed on the left with the "Hitting Buster" mascot that appears on their primary logo design. The entire design is outlined in white.
I like this design, although I find it a little busy with a "B" on both the cap and the cap (helmet?) that "Hitting Buster" is wearing. I would've like to see a red button on top to match the bill rather than the blue button that camouflages into the cap.
The alternate cap, to be worn with the red alternate jerseys, is another New Era 59-FIFTY, that features the Bisons "B" in red with a blue outline. The cap, including the button, is all red except for the two white front panels, which was inspired by the Blue Jays' 1977-1992 home caps, according to the club.
I bought one of these caps at the event because of the incredible simplicity of the design, in contrast to the primary cap above. The red "B" is also in raised stitching which I really like. Actually, my favourite cap is the one that "Hitting Buster" is wearing in the logo crest.
"We wanted to get back to our identity of being the Buffalo Bisons," general manager Buczkowski said, and after years of basing their uniform designs on their parent club's styles, the Bisons have successfully done that and now finally have a made-in-Buffalo style to call their own.