Buffalo Bisons – 25 Years Downtown
by Peter Farrell - posted 11:08 pm, February 16, 2012
For the Buffalo Bisons, it’s been a great ride. Establishing the organization as one of the premiere minor league franchises in all of baseball; Opening a stadium that became the template and the blueprint for baseball stadium construction across the land; the community march for a major league expansion team; the golden era of their modern history, where under the auspices of the Cleveland Indians they won three league titles, none more memorable than the Governors Cup clinched at home in 2004. And in doing so, branding themselves as one of the top entertainment options in this region.
Tonight at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo, over 250 fans filled the ballroom for the annual Hot Stove event. Guests noshed on roast beef sandwiches and pasta, and listened to Vice President and General Manager Mike Buczkowski lay out all the plans and promotions for what should be an exciting 25th season. Bisons radio voice Ben Wagner then engaged new Manager Wally Backman in a spirited and entertaining give and take. In a tribute to his former Mets teammate Gary Carter, who had passed away just hours earlier, Backman will wear the “#8” on his Bisons uniform this season.
So what’s on tap during this coming season? Plenty, as we learned tonight. The Bisons will launch a five part commemorative coin series giveaway on April 14th. The team will welcome back beloved beer vendor the Earl of Bud on August 23rd, and a special Earl bobble head will be distributed that night. On July 18, the team’s popular replica series will continue with a replica giveaway of Buffalo’s iconic City Hall. Returning promotions will include Star Wars night (June 9), the annual Independence Day game and Buffalo Philharmonic concert (July 3), and a jam packed lineup of promotional events, ethnic festivals and day of the week themed events to appeal to just about any fan.
The there is the All Star Game… The first such event took place right here back in 1988, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the AAA All Star Game, the festivities will take place right here in Buffalo, with the Home Run Derby on July 9 and the game, which will be nationally televised, on July 11. The team announced that Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver will be the keynote speaker at the All Star luncheon on July 11 at the Adams Mark Hotel.
Incoming manager Wally Backman clearly stole the show tonight, drawing laughs and applause during his lengthy interview and discussion onstage. Backman is known for his colorful personality and on field theatrics, and fans in attendance couldn’t get enough of him. Following the program, he obliged every fan waiting in a long line with an autograph and even a few photo opps, then met with the media.
Backman reminisced about his Mets teammate Gary Carter, the two of them shared World Series glory in 1986. “Gary was like a big brother to me. My memories will always be good about Gary, he was a great person, he was the ultimate person,” said Backman. His eyes sparkled as he spoke about the situation in that historic game 6 of the ’86 series. “When Gary got the hit I was still out on the field. I went inside after Gary got the hit because we were down by three runs. He just wouldn’t quit. It was a series that we expected to win and a lot of us felt that it was the worst series that we played in the whole season. But there was no quit in the guys. The hits that came after that made for a great story.”
As for the team this season, Backman promised the fans that this season would be different. “I think we went out and got the right guys, the organization is trying to surround our young prospects with players that can help them. That’s why Pas (Valentino Pascucci) is back. We need players who can lead. If we can build around the pitching staff, there’s something special that can happen here.”
The entire promotional lineup can be seen HERE. Opening Day is Thursday, April 11 against Scranton/Wilke-Barre. “I’m excited to see how all this comes together,” said Backman. “Buffalo’s a great city. It’s a city that expects to win. It’s in New York. And as long as I can stay in New York that’s where I want to be.”