Former Niagara University star Wynton Bernard, whose debut with the Colorado Rockies in the summer after 10 years in the minors became a viral sensation, has signed a minor-league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays with an invitation to major-league spring training.
The Purple Eagles have two players in the major leagues at the same time for the first time since 1953 and have seen two of their own make their MLB debuts in the same year for the first time since 1923.
Bernard, 32, has played 438 games in Triple-A over the last six years. He would appear to be a key player for the Buffalo Bisons if he does not crack the Toronto roster.
Bernard, an outfielder, was a Pacific Coast League all-star and the most valuable player at Albuquerque in 2022 after batting .333 with 21 homers, 92 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 108 games.
The breakout season got him his first callup to the majors and he batted .286 with three RBIs and three steals in 12 games for the Rockies.
Bernard, who is from San Diego, played three seasons at Niagara from 2009-2012 (taking 2010 off to attend community college in California after his father died following a stroke). In his senior season, he batted .314 in 46 games with 32 steals.
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Bernard was a 35th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2012 and made it to Triple-A with Detroit (Toledo), San Francisco (Sacramento), the Chicago Cubs (Iowa) and Colorado before finally making the big leagues.
Bernard's magic moment came Aug. 12 in Denver's Coors Field and became a sensation because of the emotional FaceTime call he had with his mother to tell her he had finally gotten the call from Albuquerque, where he had been PCL Player of the Month in July.
0 to 😭 in under 10 seconds.After 10 years in the minor leagues, Wynton Bernard calls his mother to tell her he’s going to the majors. pic.twitter.com/fYUlPPL9V8— Garvin Thomas (@garvinthomas) August 15, 2022
Bernard got his first major-league hit on an infield single – that was overturned from an out on replay – and went 1 for 3 with a stolen base in the Rockies' 5-3 win over Arizona. At 31, he become the oldest player to get a hit and steal a base in his MLB debut since the Cardinals' Joe Delahanty on Sept. 30, 1907.
Bernard joined Seattle pitcher Matt Brash in giving Niagara two players in the big leagues in the same season since 1953, when Niagara Falls native Sal Maglie was pitching for the New York Giants and Brooklyn native Rinty Monahan was throwing for the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Bisons will again be managed in 2023 by longtime former Buffalo player Casey Candaele, who led the team in 2021 and 2022 before getting promoted to Toronto as interim bench coach for the final three months of last season. The Blue Jays hired former Yankees star and Miami manager Don Mattingly as their new bench coach in November and returned Candaele to Buffalo for next season.
Tonight, Wynton Bernard played his first big league game after 10 years in the minors.His family, college coach, and childhood friends made their way to Denver on one day's notice to witness it.He just got his first MLB hit — and stole his first base immediately after. pic.twitter.com/A4Kd1P6Y4k— Front Office Sports (@FOS) August 13, 2022