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100 Things: Attend the Bisons home opener

We thought spring was here when we brought the car through Delta Sonic. Strike one.

We thought it again, reveling in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Strike two.

And so we step up to the plate once more. This time, we’ll hit it out of the park.

The Buffalo Bisons’ opening game in Coca-Cola Field takes place at 2:05 p.m. April 14. If this doesn’t bring on spring, nothing will.

Crowds hit Coca-Cola Field on opening day, as well as Independence Eve, pictured, for Bisons games. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News file photo)

Crowds hit Coca-Cola Field on opening day, as well as Independence Eve, pictured, for Bisons games. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News file photo)

[See the gallery of 100 Things Every WNYer Should Do At Least Once]

Not for nothing did Hollywood choose Buffalo as the backdrop for “The Natural,” one of the greatest baseball movies of all time and, may we add, another stop on our 100 Things Western New York tour. We’ve got all the bases covered. We’ve got a minor league team with major fun.

Think you want a major-league team? Think twice. You’d have a lot of inconvenience and expense. As things are, you just swing by our ballpark – the largest-capacity ballpark in minor-league baseball, may we point out. With a little creativity, you can even find free parking.

The opening game is in the afternoon, offering you an excuse to blow off work. And even if you can’t, an afternoon Bisons game is like smelling the Cheerios, yet another aspect of Buffalo that the 100 Things list will be exploring. The lines outside the stadium, the shouts of children, the squawks from the sound system throw good vibes all over downtown.

Buster Bison is a favorite of older and younger fans alike. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Buster Bison is a favorite of older and younger fans alike. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

How can you not smile at the mere thought of races among Chicken Wing, Celery, Hot Sauce and Blue Cheese? How can you not laugh at Buster Bison and his bride, Belle, the Ballpark Diva? My niece, Barbara, was 3 when she met Belle at a Bisons opening game. Gawking up at the bisonette’s lipstick and lashes, Barbara said, “Big girl.”

Other towns, other ballparks, offer similar silliness. But no other ballpark, we are guessing, offers our rival hot dogs, Sahlen’s and Wardynski’s, as well as Charlie the Butcher beef on weck.

And though we miss the Earl of Bud – he moved, and only makes rare surprise cameos – we still boast Conehead, our legendary beer vendor who, it is whispered, tours breweries in his spare time. Speaking of beer, don’t miss the new microbrew stand. They have a new brew, loganberry.

[Check out the Bisons' new concessions for the 2016 season]

"Conehead" Tom Girot, sells beer on opening day of the 2015 season. He's expected back again for 2016. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

"Conehead" Tom Girot, sells beer on opening day of the 2015 season. He's expected back again for 2016. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Go now, before things reach a wild pitch. In April and May, because it can get chilly, evening games begin earlier than they do in the summer. Bargains abound. You can often find buy-one-ticket, get-one-free deals. The ushers are more casual. The crowd is more intimate.

Sit way out in left field because on opening day that’s the only place the sun will touch. You can hear things you can’t hear above the din of high summer. At one April game a couple of years ago, a foul ball went flying, and you could hear a man in the bleachers saying: “I got it … I got it …” And after he missed it, you could also hear him mutter: “I didn’t want it.”

He didn’t curse, and no wonder. There’s a sweetness about Bisons games. It continues after the last inning.

Kids love Bisons games, too, especially knowing there's a chance they'll catch a foul ball. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Kids love Bisons games, too, especially knowing there's a chance they'll catch a foul ball. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Unlike most other ballparks, Coca-Cola Field isn’t surrounded by acres of parking lots. When you leave, you can walk past the fire station, and the firefighters will wave to you. You can be home fast. One dad I know – OK, it’s my brother – swears he can be home in bed 15 to 20 minutes after the last pitch.

[Read One Beer on the Irish Times, a bar adjacent to Coca-Cola Field]

“And I’m a first-ring suburbs guy,” he said. “It’s not like I live downtown.”

Need we say more? Take us out to the ball game.

This one’s, for sure, a home run.

A wide shot of the diamond and the stands in Coca-Cola Field before the 2015 home opener.(Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

A wide shot of the diamond and the stands in Coca-Cola Field before the 2015 home opener.(Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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