BUFFALO, NY – It took a pandemic once in a lifetime; bans on playing in Canada, Pennsylvania and Maryland; millions of dollars; and the lighting borrowed from the “Field of Dreams”; for Buffalo to host its first major league basketball game in more than a century.
Sahlen Field will officially become the new home away from home for the Toronto Blue Jays when Ake Hyun-Jin Ryu throws first place Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins. It will be the first major league game in Buffalo since 1915, when the Buffalo Blues played in the Federal League.
The changes to Sahlen Field, the home park of the Toronto Triple-A partner since 2013, are noticeable. The “Green Monster” color that adorned most of the balls is a distant memory, with most areas now adorned with Blue Jays logos, filled and painted in Jays blue, and remade for player and staff players.
“The biggest experience of opening my mouth, the jaws I had was seeing [the ballpark] from the highway. What they did to mark it and make it feel like the home of the Toronto Blue Jays … and it really is, “said general manager Ross Atkins in a video conference call ahead of Tuesday’s game.” Kind is a kind of jaw to see the difference. “It’s the best remote social space I’ve ever seen – and now I’ve seen Toronto, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa, Boston.”
The level of service at Sahlen Field, which previously housed the house and visited clubs and bath cages, was restored to bear a resemblance to the Jays’ club in Toronto. Toronto even designated the third base team as the official home team in homage to the team composition at the Rogers Center.
Both field clubs will be used by the Jinns as they expand to accommodate lockers at social distance, decorated with chairs making the 98 mile journey from Toronto. So did the drum, office decor, and family photos of Charlie Montoyo – which he was pleasantly surprised to find in his Buffalo mint office – all in an attempt to make the little league ball feel at home.
“My reaction was ‘wonderful!’ “This is the word I will use, wonderful, because I have been here for so many years and you see the difference and how satisfied the players are and how happy they are with everything,” Montoyo said. “I think they did a great job. … Everyone is happy with that. A great job.”
Visiting teams will use a massive tent in the parking lot of the proper field as the visitors club. The tent area, which is fully equipped as an exercise club space, locker room and office space, was built using a plan similar to the MLB planned for the “Field of Dreams” game in Iowa . Visiting teams will also have access to the office and club space in the Sahlen Field Suite area.
“Seeing Boston, I think, really helped us here,” Atkins said, referring to the inspiration the team drew from the improvements at Fenway Park. “It helped us think a little bit about things a little bit differently. The ways they are challenged are similar to the ways we will be challenged here. The mindset of maximizing competition space and creating large, open areas where “We can, and brand it in a way when it felt completely different. I’m pretty sure our players, when they came here, did not recognize it.”
The transformation is complete! Welcome to Sahlen Field. #WeAreBlueJays pic.twitter.com/37ObFtGJND
– Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 11, 2020
The Blue Jays are calling their home Buffalo after the Canadian federal government rejected a plan for the team to use the Rogers Center in Toronto this 60-game season cut short by pandemics, for fear of expanding COVID-19. The Blue Jays reached out to the Orioles and Pirates to use their facilities, but state governments in Pennsylvania and Maryland opposed the proposals.
Since there was no large baseball game infrastructure in Sahlen Park, the Blue Jays had to pass the bill to make massive improvements not only in players and staff equipment, but also in lighting and field pitch. The grass behind the house slab and when it expands to more than 20 feet away from the shield had to be replaced. Other changes included excavated stretches and fading from the bottom 15 feet of the scoreboard to protect the shot eye.
Temporary lighting trucks will also be deployed during the games to bring it up to MLB and transmission standards. Those trucks were to be part of the extra lighting measures used by MLB for its canceled “Field of Dreams” game between the White Sox and the Cardinals in Iowa. The game, a tribute to the famous 1989 film of the same name, was canceled due to concerns of COVID-19.
“They did a good job,” Atkins said when discussing lighting improvements. “The best test will be tonight, but we feel good about it. We know it will not be the Rogers Center, which has tremendous lighting, but we feel good about it. Our players were in it last night. “They felt like it was a significant update and I’m excited to see how he plays tonight.”
“We were all walking around talking about how we could not get to know the country,” Vladimir Guerrero Jr. told ESPN. Guerrero dropped .343 / .420 / .593 with an OPS of 1,013 in 39 games in two short games at Buffalo in 2018 and 2019.
Newcomer Nate Pearson said: “It feels like I’m in a completely different stadium. Everything is in order, spacious. Everything is great. I know some of the guys who were skeptical about it were pumped up and ready to go.” .
The Jays’ celebrated Guerrero’s new trio, Cavan Biggio (.312, 6 HR, 27 RBI in 43 games in Buffalo), and Bo Bichette (.275, 8 HR, 32 RBIs in 56 games) all played with Bisons. Many other current Blue Blues also know Buffalo, having played in juveniles or in rehab games.
“I was there with [Randal] Grichuk, [Lourdes] Gurriel and [Anthony] Alford taking BP [Monday], and we were all amazed at the size of the club and the conditions on the pitch, even in all the color changes, “Guerrero said. It doesn’t look anything like the topparku I played a few years ago. It looks nothing like a small league toppark right now. “And it’s just nice to have a house.”