Kelly Gruber remembered playing in Buffalo, but it wasn’t at anything like Coca-Cola Field.
Gruber played in Buffalo in 1983, back when the Bisons were the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and at War Memorial Stadium on the East Side of Buffalo.
He went on to spend 10 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, including their 1992 World Series Championship team.
This weekend, he was back in Buffalo along with Fred McGriff, representing the alumni base for Blue Jays weekend with the Bisons.
“It should have been done a long time ago is my first thought,” Gruber said of the affiliation between the Jays and the Bisons now in its second year. “Geographically it makes sense. I’m glad to see it, obviously having played here. It wasn’t this nice a digs as here, but it was a great time I had when I played here.
“It just makes perfectly good sense and I was wondering when it was going to happen and I was glad to see it.”
Gruber was happy to be back in Buffalo and doing alumni work with the Blue Jays. He noted that as the team went through ownership changes the baseball suffered as did the connection between the organization and its former players.
That’s beginning to change and Gruber looks forward to becoming more involved. While he lives in Austin, Texas, his baseball career remains tied to his days with the Jays as his baseball camps focus on developing talent in Canada.
“I don’t hold grudges. I don’t play silly games. Life is too short,” Gruber said. “It’s good to see everybody because one thing we had in common is that once we got on that field between those white lines all our differences fell away. Between those white lines as long as we had the same thing in common it’s all that mattered. When you’re professional enough to do that, then you’ll go a long way. When you’re not selfish. When you care about the team and that’s what it’s all about.”
McGriff is also in town this weekend to participate as a Blue Jays alumni ambassador. He was in Buffalo earlier this month, working as a part-time consultant for the organization helping players with their hitting.
“You hope they’ll listen to you a little bit because they’ve got a lot of voices coming their way,” McGriff said. “You hope that they can understand I was blessed to play in the big leagues and I tried every stance you can think of. Wide stance. Close stance. Open stance. Hands high. Hands low. Hitch. I’ve done it all. … Hopefully they can listen and learn a little bit of something.”
What did McGriff do during his playing days when he had a lot of voices coming his way?
“I’d go get the media guide and I’d flip through it and see, this guy is trying to tell me something? Let me see what he did in the big leagues,” McGriff said.
Go ahead and flip through the media guide and you’ll see McGriff knows what he’s talking about when he talks about hitting. The five-time Major League All-Star hit 493 home runs in his 19-year Major League career.
Blue Jays weekend continues at Coca-Cola Field for today’s 1:05 first pitch against Rochester.
The first 3,000 fans through the Swan Gate will receive an Ace & Buster Tumbler with giveaways throughout the game including autographed baseballs, jerseys and tickets.
The Bisons will wear throwback jerseys and hats while autograph sessions with Gruber and McGriff will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. inside the Washington Street Gate.
Saturday morning started with a host of transaction moves. Anthony Gose, who was optioned by the Blue Jays on Wednesday, reported to the Bisons and was activated before the game.
In addition, the Herd added right-hand pitcher P.J. Walters. He was promoted from Double-A New Hampshire and will get the start this afternoon.
Walters was acquired by the Blue Jays from a trade with the Houston Astrons on May 25. In four starts with the FisherCats, he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. He began the season in Triple-A Omaha, going 1-4 in 10 games with a 7.97 ERA.
Rob Rasmussen was recalled to the Blue Jays. Liam Hendriks, who lasted two innings in the spot start, was optioned back to Buffalo.