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The Bisons have a new manager

BisonsThere were more than a few raised eyebrows late last year, when the highly respected and popular manager of the Buffalo Bisons, Marty Brown, abruptly announced that he was leaving the Toronto Blue Jays organization and not returning to Buffalo to manage the Bisons in 2014.

Brown had quite a following here in Buffalo and was very well liked within the Bisons’ organization. He led Buffalo to its last league championship back in 2004, when the Bisons won the International League Governors Cup. Last year, on his return to Buffalo, his team fell just short of qualifying for the postseason playoffs, yet hopes are still high that the team would take that next step and return to the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Enter Gary Allenson.

Allenson will be starting his 20th season as a manager at the minor league level, eight of those years spent in the International League. Last season, he managed the Blue Jays’ AA affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was introduced to the media, and then to the public, at the Bisons’ annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Adams Mark Hotel downtown on Thursday.

“It’s a great league. It’s a competitive league, and it’s a tougher league than that other league (the PCL),” said Allenson. “It’s a man’s league and I’m happy to be here.”

For the Bisons, Allenson will have a strong familiarity with many of his roster players, some of whom played for him at AA last season. Toronto Blue Jays VP and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was also on hand, and promised that the Buffalo team should be well stocked going into 2014. “I think we have a stronger roster here than last year,” said Anthopoulos, who is still dealing with the crushing disappointment of last years’ results at the big league level when expectations for Toronto were red hot.

Allenson readily admitted that he knows he has some big shoes to fill in replacing Marty Brown, also stating that he had little interaction with his fellow manager, other than on the phone discussions regarding things such as player call ups and individual player issues. “He was in big league camp, and I talked with him on the phone I would deal with player performance, that sort of thing. He’s a class guy. He’s a baseball man and has been in baseball for a while. I don’t know the reason why things didn’t work out and why he left but he’s a good man as far as I know.”

Buffalo will open their 27th year of professional baseball downtown at Coca Cola Field on Thursday, April 4 vs the Rochester Red Wings. Opening Day is just 76 days away.

Bisons manager Marty Brown… Simply The Best

marty_brownROCHESTER… It was more than just an ordinary win for the Buffalo Bisons this afternoon at Frontier Field in Rochester.

The Bisons downed the Rochester Red Wings, 5-3, to improve their record to an International League best 16-6 on this young season. The 16 wins sets a modern era record for most wins in April by the team. The Bisons have two games remaining this month, both in Rochester, to possibly add to this record.

Manager Marty Brown set a record for most wins by a team manager in the modern era, his 254th win here in Buffalo, Brown managed the Herd from 2003-2005 before returning this season, now with the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

The previous record was held by Brian Graham with 253 wins. Other managers who have served during this era include Eric Wedge and Terry Collins, now both managing big league teams.

“It only means I’ve been around a lot longer than those guys,” quipped Brown this afternoon as he accepted congratulations and well wishes from visitors to the clubhouse, including Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski, who made the trip to Rochester.

“It is gratifying to have such a solid group of guys playing for me. I am grateful to each and every one of them, for without them I am not standing here today. But it’s just a number. We’re here to win. We’re here to develop players. We are going to do it one day at a time,” said Brown.

With that there was one more ceremony in the happy Bisons clubhouse in the service level of Rochester’s ballpark. Brown took a seat in a regular shopping cart, where his entire of cadre of players paraded him around the dressing room, then leading their skipper into the showers. There he was doused with a healthy dose of bottled beer. Brown emerged from the showers, drenched from head to toe, smiling and exclaimed, “Damn, are we going to do this every time we win now?”

Good times. And fun times to be around Buffalo Bisons baseball right about now.

Some surprises at today’s Bisons presser

Today was the day that the Bisons unveiled their new logo for the 2013 season, which will be the first as the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Also in town to be given the formal introduction was the new manager, Marty Brown, who returns for his second stint with the Bisons, having managed here from 2003-2005 and leading the team to its 6th Governors Cup championship in 2004.

But there were a couple other surprises at the event today. Making the trip from Toronto was Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, who brought with him the newest Jays skipper, John Gibbons. Gibbons was just announced as the new field manager in Toronto, and will be making his second tour of duty leading the Jays, having been their manager between the 2005 and 2008 seasons. Both gentlemen made it here after hosting their own press conference up in Toronto earlier in the day.

The biggest surprise, however, was the announcement of the signing of Western New York native Jim Negrych to a minor league contract. Negrych is an infielder who has spent time at the AAA level with the Indianapolis Indians and Syracuse Chiefs. He appeared with the International League squad in this year’s AAA All Star Game which took place in Buffalo. “Sure it’s like a dream come true to be able to come to Buffalo and play for the home team,” said Negrych. “Although it’s the goal of every player to make it to the top level and that certainly is my goal, to make it to the Blue Jays and be able to compete. If I do end up here in Buffalo then that is by far the second best thing.” Negrych graduated from St. Francis High School in 2003, where he was a baseball standout, and admitted that he attended Bisons games as a fan from as early as he could remember.

The Bisons will unveil their uniform designs at their Hot Stove event in January. New logo merchandise is available at the team’s gift shop at Coca Cola Field, and will also hold a “Cyber Monday” sale all of next week, offering a $10 discount on any purchase of $40 or more. Also on sale are several “Holiday Packs” of gift packages which include Opening Day tickets, flex tickets, and other goodies along with a special holiday ornament.

Watch this week’s print edition of Artvoice for a special edition of “Play Ball” and more on manager Marty Brown.

follow Andrew Kulyk on Twitter at @akulykUSRT