As far as weather events go, the Buffalo Bisons have pretty much seen it all. Such is baseball life playing in a northern climate, where April schedules get iffy due to early spring cold snaps and even snowstorms from time to time.
But even the Bisons weren’t prepared for this.
As the home calendar turned to May and the team prepped for a six game homestand, beginning last Tuesday and stretching to Sunday, the weather turned terrible.
Tuesday, canceled. Rain and high winds. Wednesday, they got the doubleheader in. Thursday, canceled. Rain. Friday, canceled. Rain. Saturday, they got a window and played one game of a doubleheader through on and off showers, then game two was moved to Sunday. Thankfully, those games were played, but in frigid temperatures. The sun finally came out late Sunday as team attendants were packing the bus for the road trip in Syracuse and Lehigh Valley that began on Monday.
In all, the Bisons have registered eight cancellations at home this season. To put that in perspective, last year there were none at home and just one cancellation on the road.
Incredibly, the team managed to get in five of the six contests around the horrible conditions, all seven inning games. The team went 2-3 on the homestand but still clings to a tenuous lead in the International League’s northern division.
“It wears me out, and I don’t even have to play,” said Manager Bobby Meacham when asked if all the cobbled doubleheaders are having an effect on the team. “After a little break the guys have to go out there for a second game. It’s tough, but a lot of teams have got to do it, so we’re all in the same boat.”
For the field staff, including the manager, it is paramount that the games get in so that prospects can see real game action and be evaluated on their performance. The size of the crowds, or game day atmosphere, is secondary, or really irrelevant. Said Meacham, “Baseball is the way that it is sometimes, especially in winter, when in April or May the weather is cold. All these players played in the Florida State League and there’s nobody there either.”
Outfielder Darrell Cecilliani also remarked about all the forced doubleheaders. “It’s tough when you got to play two. But you got to make the best of it. They’ve also got to play two. You go about your business just like any other day.. Obviously, baseball is a game that the more you play and get those reps and staying fine tuned with what you need to. We’re at AAA level and we’ve got to roll with the punches.”
But as for the attendances, the nearly non existent turnout had to astonish even the most hardened of Bisons staffers, who have seen the good times and the bad. Outside of the indoor suites, all the games were played before “crowds” that in all likelihood did not top 100 fans through the gate. All week long. Youngsters trolling for foul baseballs had a field day, as ball after ball dropped into empty seating areas.
It would be fair to say that the Bisons game day staff, factoring ticket takers, security, concession stand and in seat vendors, game day operations, and pressbox personnel outnumbered ticketed fans through the gates.
Even a Star Wars ticket promotion package plan went awry. The deal? Buy a four pack to the Star Wars event in June, and receive four free tickets to last Friday’s game. The savviest of fans would have taken advantage of that promotion and sidled up to the ticket window before Friday’s cancellation. Those Friday tickets would now be good for any game the rest of the season. Oh, and paid for those tickets in Canadian currency, as the team extended “at par” days through last Sunday, and our dollar right now trades at about $1.37 Canadian.
The team returns home this coming Monday and the weather at long last looks spring like. Actual fans in the stands, concession stands at full tilt. That would be a good thing.
AROUND THE BASES…
Out of New York this past Friday a mini scandal surrounding the New York Mets. The team enjoyed a come from behind victory, erasing a 7-1 deficit to win, and as is the clubhouse tradition, the player of the game gets to wear a crown and get photographed for the team social media accounts. That honor went to T.J. Rivera.
In the background, in a cubicle owned by pitcher Kevin Plawecki, and in plain view of anyone examining the picture, was a phallic shaped adult sex toy.
The whole affair immediately went viral, but too late. The picture was out there, and team attempts to retweet a cropped photo just added to the embarrassment.
The next day, Mets ace pitcher (and former Buffalo Bison) Matt Harvey got suspended without pay for three days for “violating team rules”.
The assumption, of course, was that Harvey was the instigator of the prank, but those rumors were quickly dispelled by the team and verified independently through several sources.
More soap opera drama for a team that was a preseason favorite to contend for the division pennant. They are mired close to the .500 range and distractions like these do not help.