Blue Jays Bring the Big League Experience to Buffalo

On the quest to see all of Major League Baseball’s parks, add Buffalo to the list.

After a magical first big league game watching the Yankees play the Blue Jays in Toronto back in 1995, I was all in. I set a goal of visiting every park in Major League Baseball. Since then, I’ve been planning trips with the guys (and now my wife and kids) to cities that have an MLB team.

My timing was perfect. New, retro-styled stadiums were being built across the country. Ballparks like Camden Yards in Baltimore and Jacobs Field in Cleveland were the new big-league field of dreams. There were two dozen ballparks that were calling my name and I was primed and ready to go. In a “there’s always a Buffalo connection” footnote, baseball historians credit Buffalo’s Pilot (now Sahlen) Field with being the catalyst that kicked off the new wave of stadium development, with many of the parks that came after following the same retro approach.

What I never expected was my quest leading me back to Buffalo. Sure, we once had our sights set on getting a big league team, but the closest we ever came was when the Pittsburgh Pirates held a home run derby and a scrimmage against the Bisons in 1991.

Fast forward to 2021 — the pandemic has turned the world upside down, closing the border between the United States and Canada, and forcing Toronto’s Blue Jays to look for a place to play their games in the U.S. Sahlen Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons – the Jays’ minor league farm team – was the obvious choice.

For a fan who’s logged thousands of miles chasing his dream, this was a welcome turn of events. I could add another notch to my big league ballpark belt just by making the easy 20-minute drive to downtown Buffalo.

When I got to the stadium to see the Jays face off against the Marlins, the pregame buzz was electric. The smell of the best hot dogs on earth emanated from the concession area for the first time in two years, and the crowd quenched their thirst with Conehead beers from Buffalo’s Resurgence Brewing

Sahlen Field was built for big league baseball, and it was finally getting its chance to shine. And the people came — excited, informed, and engaged –just like you’d expect from Buffalo sports fans. From the first pitch to the last out, Buffalo gave the Blue Jays the home game they’ve so desperately needed, and will most certainly continue to do so for as long as the baseball authorities allow.  

Enjoying the big leagues in Buffalo with my father, Ray, and sister, Luanne.

Because everything about this story hits so close to home, I can say without hesitation that this is my favorite park in baseball. Seeing the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field goes in the scrapbook and will forever be part of Buffalo’s — and my — baseball stadium story.

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