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Buffalove from Afar: This Buff State grad would move back 'in a heartbeat'

Mark Topping didn’t grow up in Buffalo, but after four years living and attending college in the Queen City, he considers himself a “Buffalonian at heart.”

Topping grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay area and suburbs of Los Angeles. He ended up in Buffalo during his college years, when he did a national student exchange program in 1992 at SUNY Buffalo State. What began as a one-semester exchange, turned into a one-year exchange, then ultimately a four-year transfer to the Elmwood Avenue college.

“It was probably one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” said Topping, who today work as video coordinator for the Kansas City Royals, overseeing video coaching.

He initially chose Buffalo after seeing pictures from a friend’s time here. He says he was blown away by the blue-collar city.

“I’ve always been fascinated by these downtrodden cities,” said Topping.

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Name: Mark Topping

Age: 45

Current location: Kansas City, Mo.

Mark Topping at the Horace Mann Quad at Buffalo State College, with Ketchum Hall in the background, November 2014. (Photo courtesy Mark Topping)

Previous locations: Buffalo; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Fresno, Calif.; Springfield, Mo.; Toledo, Ohio; San Diego

Love most about Kansas City: The friendly people; the neighborhoods; the nightlife; the restaurants, music and art scene; the parks; the fountains

Miss most about Buffalo: The waterfront and Lake Erie, Gabriel's Gate, Elmwood Avenue, the Buffalo Bills, the bars, the architecture, the food, Coles

•••

Over the course of four years, Topping fell in love with the City of Good Neighbors, specifically the architecture, Lake Erie and Elmwood Avenue, which he says is one of the most unique and beautiful streets in the country.

Mark Topping with fellow Buffalo State graduates Brendan Burghardt and Dave Natale at a Bills game in December 1992. (Photo courtesy Mark Topping)

“I felt like I became the person I am through my time in Buffalo,” said Topping. “Part of it was just being around the locals, being a blue-collar city, I learned to appreciate that.”

Being from California, he was thrilled to experience snow during his time in Buffalo, and he says he really misses it.

“I went out in the snow all the time,” said Topping, who recalled taking dozens of pictures of his first snowfall to send back to family.

And while he grew up a 49ers fan, he had always liked the Buffalo Bills. They have now become his team, and he makes sure to get to at least one game a year, even traveling to Jacksonville this year for the team’s first playoff game in 17 years.

After graduating college in ’96, Topping moved around the country for his career in TV news, ending up in Kansas City briefly in 1998, then for good in 2001. He began a career two years later with the Kansas City Royals as video coordinator overseeing video coaching.

Topping was with the team when they won the World Series in 2015.

Mark Topping with Paul Rudd — actor, lifelong Royals fan and longtime Kansas City resident — as they celebrate the Royals' 2015 World Series win in the visitors clubhouse at Citi Field in November 2015. (Photo courtesy Mark Topping)

For Topping, Kansas City has become home. He loves the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the people and the parks. His favorite neighborhoods are the ones that remind him of Buffalo.

Which is perhaps why Buffalo will always be his second home, even more so than the part of California where he grew up. He says he met some of his closest friends here and still visits at least once a year, though he wishes his visit was a more permanent one.

“I spent the best years of my life there and would go back in a heartbeat if I could,” said Topping.

For the time being, Topping makes sure to visit Buffalo whenever he has free time traveling with the Royals to Toronto or Cleveland.

During those visits he enjoys seeing Buffalo’s progress, the way the city is doing something with existing space.

“The good thing about this resurgence is all these buildings they weren’t doing anything with are being brought back to life,” said Topping.

Mark Topping in front of his old college house on Bird Avenue in Buffalo in November 2014. (Photo courtesy Mark Topping)

He equates the progress to when a band you like becomes popular. He wants to see Buffalo thrive, but he has always liked how Buffalo is under the radar, and he doesn’t want it to become so popular that it loses its charm.

“I want Buffalo to be successful, but I don’t want to ruin it,” said Topping.

That doesn’t stop him from promoting and defending the Queen City every chance he gets. He says what really makes the city special are the people, who are real, loyal and seek out the positive of any situation.

“The 'City of Good Neighbors' is such a good nickname, because it’s really true,” said Topping.

While he spent only four years living in the Queen City, Topping says Buffalo made him who he is and will always be a part of him.

"I loved it when I lived there, and I still do," said Topping.

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If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email alison.russo19@gmail.com.

Alison Russo grew up in the Southtowns and lives in a suburb of Kansas City with her husband, Joe, and their two children. She works as a freelance writer and public relations/marketing specialist.

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