The Buffalo Bisons have kicked off their sixth annual "Blue Jays Weekend" promotion with some big news – a two-year extension of their player development contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto's top farmhands, who first came to Buffalo in 2013, will now be here through the 2020 season. The current agreement was to expire after this season.
“Having a strong Major League parent club that is willing to support our efforts both on the field and off is extremely important to our overall success and the Toronto Blue Jays have been and continue to be a fantastic partner of ours since Day One,” Bisons Vice President/General Manager Mike Buczkowski said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to continuing this relationship and bringing the excitement of both our clubs to the great baseball fans in Western New York, Southern Ontario and in Toronto.”
“We are very proud to extend our relationship with the Rich family and the Buffalo Bisons,” said Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim. “The first-class treatment that our players receive in Buffalo is a testament to the leadership of Jon Dandes, Mike Buczkowski and the entire Bisons organization. The Bisons are instrumental in helping to create the optimal environments, both on and off the field, so that our players can maximize their potential en route to Toronto. We look forward to this relationship continuing for many years to come.”
The Blue Jays’ farm system is currently ranked No. 9 by MLB.com and contains several high-end prospects. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the 19-year-old son of the Hall of Famer, is the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball and is batting .388 at Double-A New Hampshire. Six of the Blue Jays' top 20 prospects are currently on the Buffalo roster.
In a weather-scorched season to date, the Bisons are 8-10 after Thursday's 3-0 win over Syracuse. The teams meet again tonight at 7:05. The Bisons are in last place in the International League North Division but just three games out of first. The Bisons have not made the playoffs in any of their five previous seasons with the Blue Jays and, in fact, continue to hold the longest postseason drought in the International League.
Buffalo's last playoff berth was in 2005 when it was a Cleveland affiliate. That was the last of its nine trips to the postseason in an 11-year span with the Indians that produced three league championships.
The Toronto affiliation, however, is a boon to the Bisons from a marketing standpoint and nearly a quarter of the club's summer attendance is believed to come from Southern Ontario. A schedule of Bisons games airs each season on Sportsnet The Fan 590, Toronto's flagship radio station, and the connection grew even tighter in March when longtime radio play-by-play man Ben Wagner was named to the top job in Toronto, taking over for legendary Blue Jays voice Jerry Howarth.
Key Blue Jays to come through Buffalo include outfielders Kevin Pillar and Teoscar Hernandez and pitchers Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes. Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have all played here on injury rehab stints. The Bisons have had five IL postseason all-stars while with Toronto, and infielder Matt Hague won the league's 2015 Most Valuable Player award.
The official Blue Jays Weekend festivities will be held around Saturday and Sunday's games against Syracuse, both of which start at 1:05. The Bisons will wear their powder blue affiliation throwback jerseys in both games and their new Blue Jays-style caps that they use for each Sunday home game this year.
During Saturday's game, there will guest appearances by former standout Toronto outfielders Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield, stars of the 1985 AL East Division champions. They will hold an autograph session when the gates open at 11:30 a.m. and it will last until 12:30 in the concourse by Section 104. Fans will be limited to one autograph item per player and no pictures. Bats will not be allowed into the ballpark for autographs but baseballs are acceptable.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) March 22, 2018
The gates open Sunday at noon and the first 2,000 fans will receive a youth Affiliation Throwback Jersey Replica. Sunday's game will also feature an appearance by the Blue Jays Mascot, ACE. Kids can run the bases after the game.
Blue Jays tickets will be given away during both games. The Bisons have also extended their "Canadian At-Par" policy for the entire homestand, which runs through Wednesday. Either at the Coca-Cola Field box office or at Bisons.com with the promo code BisonsAtPar, Canadian fans can get tickets for Blue Jays Weekend or any game this year with at-par pricing.