Big-league veteran Chris Dickerson ignited the Buffalo Bisons’ biggest offensive game in more than a year with a first-inning grand slam Saturday evening.
The blast started the Herd off on a 16-2 rout of the Toledo Mud Hens at Coca-Cola Field.
Buffalo pounded out 18 hits, and its run total was its most since a 17-5 win over Louisville on April 28, 2014.
The 33-year-old Dickerson is a big, athletic outfielder who has played in 355 major-league games with five different teams over the previous seven years. He has played at least 25 games in the majors seven years in a row, bouncing from Cincinnati to Milwaukee to the New York Yankees to Baltimore to Cleveland.
Versatility has kept his career going. He’s a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder who can run and play all three outfield positions. He has hit well enough in stretches – his career average is .257 – to keep getting called up to the majors.
“I’ve been lucky enough that I can play all three outfield positions, and be an above average outfielder,” Dickerson said. “It helps when you can fill in and swing the bat a little bit. It does help, having the tools that can be recognized by these different teams as needs they may want to acquire.”
Toronto signed him as a free agent in February, but a sore back has limited him early this season with the Bisons.
He came off the disabled list May 9 and entered Saturday’s game hitting .246.
“By the numbers it’s not great,” he said. “I struggled with the cold weather and had the back spasms. I’m just trying to get over that. But I think things have turned around. I went home for my sister’s wedding, saw a specialist, and since then it’s turned around.”
Dickerson crushed a 1-1 pitch from Toledo starter Mike Belfiore into the right-field bleachers to give the Bisons an early 4-0 lead. The homer landed in a buffet bowl of potato salad in the bleacher section.
“I was just looking for a fastball out over the plate,” Dickerson said. “I’ve faced him a couple times. I don’t think he really had his two-seamer. … I wanted to get something out over the plate and get something in the air, and it worked out.”
“When you’ve played that long, you obviously know how to play,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said of Dickerson. “You obviously know how to hit, what pitchers are trying to do to you. That was obviously the big hit of the game.”
It was a good day all around for Dickerson. He and former major leaguer Jack Cassel are co-founders of an organization called Players for the Planet, an alliance of about 90 pro athletes who partner to promote environmental awareness. They ran a big recycling drive at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark on Saturday in which they collected used electronics items. Cassel is the brother of Bills quarterback Matt Cassel.
“We set a new record; we crushed it today,” Dickerson said. “Yesterday we had 561 cars drop off stuff. Today we had 721 cars make drop-offs. We’ve done it in Kansas City and Anaheim and in Minnesota.”
Dickerson started the initiative in 2008 when he noticed how many plastic bottles were getting thrown in the trash daily in his Triple-A Louisville locker room.
“It was astonishing how much plastic we were throwing away that year,” he said. “It kind of turned into a big thing. It’s a never-ending project to get people to recycle.”