The 2010 edition of the Buffalo Bisons made their first visit to Coca Cola Field this afternoon, after breaking spring camp down in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and enroute to their regular season opener in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this Thursday.
So what is noticeably different about this year’s squad? Offense, offense, offense. Hoping to erase the memory of last year’s awful start, the Mets have stocked their AAA team with some potent offensive weapons and prospects who are on the fast track to the big leagues.
The team finished their exhibition season undefeated, earning a 7-0-2 record while down in Florida.
Two new names to watch for in the Bisons lineup are Mike Cervenak and Mike Hessman, both solid veterans at the minor league level and capable of creating excitement at the plate. Cervenak has some major league experience at the major league level, having played for the Phillies for part of the 2008 season.
Hessman, meanwhile, has been a Bison-killer throughout much of his International League career, mostly playing for the Toledo Mud Hens, where he led the league in home runs and RBI’s in 2007 and was named the league’s most valuable player that season. “I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Look at this roster right now and you have a good team. We have players one through nine who can do some damage at the plate,” said Hessman. As for his role on the team, Hessman replied, “Some of the young guys are going to see a different type of ball game than they’ve seen in the past, and we older players can shed some light on things and help them in any way possible.”
Young prospect Ike Davis is giving Mets fans lots to get excited about, and expect to see plenty of him at first base when the Bisons begin the season. “I’m really excited. Buffalo is a great town, it’s a beautiful stadium, I’m looking for a place to live here right now.”
Davis had a good spring training this year. “Most of the organization had a rough year last year. The team I started with last year had the best year and we were only .500. When I moved up to Binghamton we didn’t do too well. Now we’re just trying to wipe the whole thing away.”
Manager Ken Oberkfell has named Tobi Stoner as the Opening Day pitcher this Thursday in Scranton. Stoner was 7-7 last season with the Herd with a 3.96 ERA, and made his major league debut with the Mets last year as well. After the September callups, Stoner made four relief appearances with the Mets late in the season.
Off the field, the ballpark is looking especially clean and green as the crews ready the building for the season. With the good weather, the field is looking to be in exceptional shape, and even today crews were scrubbing and power washing in preparation for next week’s home opener.
The Bisons have upgraded their concessions service, which will include two new full service concession stands, the Third Base Bullpen and Chip’s Carnival Corner on the 100 level. A new soft serve ice cream machine has been added to the stand in section 109 to serve patrons faster. Fans can also expect to see a new vendor named Luigi in the stands, offering personal pan pizzas delivered right to the seats. At the section 122 wing stand, fried green beans, fried pickles and sweet potato fries have been added to the menu.
The team is once again riding high, with a recent national feature in USA Today which named Coca Cola Field as one of the “10 great places for a baseball pilgrimage.” During the winter, the Bisons were also featured in a national advertising campaign by AT&T, which depicted a fictitious player named Carl Schaus, who had just been called up to the team, and was using his apps to direct his cab driver to the ballpark and get him admitted into the building.
Additionally, during the offseason it was announced that Buffalo will host the 2012 AAA All Star Game at Coca Cola Field, which will be the 25th anniversary of this event. This venue was the site of the first ever such game back in 1988. But it has gotten to be a much bigger and grander affair since then.
The Bisons jam packed promotional schedule will once again include ethnic festival nights, the traditional Independence Day game with the Buffalo Philharmonic and fireworks extravaganza, The Fridaynightbash games with fireworks shows, and several giveaway nights, the two highlights being the Central Terminal Replica (August 5) and the Doc Gooden bobble head (August 25).
It all starts up next Wednesday, April 14, at 3:05PM against the Torey Lovullo led Pawtucket Red Sox, the 125th season of professional baseball in Buffalo. Right now the forecast says mostly cloudy and upper 50s. Here’s hoping the sun will break out for a great Opening Day and a great season for the Herd.