Two months after showcasing their new team logo, the Buffalo Bisons revealed their highly-anticipated new uniforms on Friday afternoon at the club’s annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Adam’s Mark hotel in downtown Buffalo. In front of a packed house of over 200 guests that included a nice mix of new and longtime fans, Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski revealed his team’s new home, road and alternate jerseys along with their on-field hats, reiterating the club’s desire to go back to their roots with a red, white and blue color scheme.
Much like the star-studded group that made the trip to the logo unveiling in November, another impressive group of Blue Jays personnel came to support this afternoon’s luncheon, as team president and CEO Paul Beeston, vice president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos, director of minor league operations Charlie Wilson, outfielder Anthony Gose, and former Blue Jay George Bell were all in attendance.
Also on hand was Jays area scout Randy Kramer, a former right-handed pitcher who spent parts of three seasons with the Bisons from 1988-90. It was another nice, local touch between the Blue Jays and Bisons, as Kramer was a familiar face to many of the older fans and season ticket holders in attendance. Back at the logo unveiling, the Blue Jays pleasantly surprised the local media by inviting Buffalo native Jim Negrych to sign a minor league deal with the team at the press conference.
Bisons play-by-play announcer Ben Wagner (read Minor Leaguer’s prior interview with him here) emceed the event, and kicked things off by interviewing Bell as the audience partook in the buffet lunch. Bell reminisced about his playing days, from passing through Buffalo’s old War Memorial stadium in the early 80’s to playing at Exhibition Stadium with the Blue Jays and eventually at the SkyDome, which he thought could have very well been called something else.
"When they built the SkyDome--that was the name--it was supposed to be George Bell Centre," he joked, which drew a light-hearted laugh from the audience.
Up next with Wagner was Gose, who talked about being called up to the big leagues, what it was like being in the majors, and the feeling of hitting his first major league home run. Given the current state of the Blue Jays’ roster, Gose also added that he’s mentally prepared to open the 2013 season in Buffalo and looking forward to getting things rolling.
"I couldn’t stop smiling, I know that; it was a really good feeling," Gose said of his home run. "I felt like it took forever, though."
After Wilson and Buczkowski added a few words on the affiliation between Toronto and Buffalo, Beeston stepped up to the podium and added words of his own on the topic, mentioning that an affiliation runs two ways and how the Jays wanted to be in Buffalo for years. Beeston also mentioned the talk earlier in the offseason about how Travis d’Arnaud and Adeiny Hechavarria were supposed to be high profile additions to the Bisons’ Opening Day roster but were traded, setting the stage for Anthopoulos to take the mic.
Today was obviously a busy day for Anthopoulos with the arbitration deadline looming, as nearly every time Minor Leaguer and I looked over at him his head was down and his fingers were furiously texting. Upon taking the podium, Anthopoulos apologized for having to multitask so much and made the announcement that he had come to contract agreements with all three of the Jays’ remaining arbitration-eligible players in J.A. Happ, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Thole.
Referencing the departures of d’Arnaud and Hechavarria to improve the big league club, Anthopoulos dialed up the hype machine on Gose, as he spoke very highly of the center fielder, saying that he’s "right there" with Jose Reyes in terms of everything he does and that "you may not see a better defensive center fielder in the game" than him.
Once again, Anthopoulos also spoke very highly of the partnership between the Blue Jays and Bisons, stressing its importance.
"It’s great. This isn’t just any other minor league Triple-A affiliation, this is a big deal. I know it’s a Triple-A affiliate but it’s as Major League as it gets, from the management team to the way they run it," Anthopoulos told me. "This team means a lot to this city, it means a lot to this community, it means a lot to us. From that standpoint it’s as good as it gets."
Judging by what the Blue Jays have done over the last few months, they’re doing a great job of showing the Bisons how much this affiliation means to them, with even more opportunities coming in just 77 days, when the Bisons face the Rochester Red Wings in their season opener at home on Thursday, April 4.