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Marty Brown and His Triumphant Return

Former Bisons skipper makes waves at Coca Cola Field

The hardcore baseball fans here in Buffalo knew who he was, and, at last week’s All Star events, gave manager Marty Brown a well deserved round of applause.

Brown is best remembered as the manager who led the Buffalo Bisons to its last league championship. That happened way back in 2004, and Buffalo has not had a taste of the playoffs since Brown departed. The Torey Lovullo era with Cleveland was marked with disappointment, and the Bisons have fared no better since linking up with the New York Mets in 2009. Only this season has the team showed a spark of competitiveness, and with seven weeks to go the Bisons remain in the playoff hunt.

After leaving Buffalo, Brown went back to Japan, where he had previously played and coached, taking the helm of the Hiroshima Carp. In 2011, he returned to the States, with his beautiful new bride in tow, and took the helm of the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League. Las Vegas is the top affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“This place means an awful lot to me,” said a beaming Brown, as he took to the field last week to lead the Pacific Coast League players in a team practice. Brown was named manager of the PCL All Stars, and this event gave him a perfect opportunity to reconnect with the city and the team where he had enjoyed much success.

Brown said he appreciated the experience of coaching in Japan for five seasons. “Culturally, they do things differently over there,” he said. “It was a long process there, having to adapt to different situations and some of the anxiety of the Japanese players. We have that too here but our players tend to hide it better. There the mindset is get a lead early, so I just try to adapt to the player.”

Now that Brown is back on this continent and an entrenched part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, he works closely with other people who have distinct Buffalo roots—of course Torey Lovullo, who is their team’s first base coach, and Manager John Farrell, who was Cleveland’s Minor League director back in the day and the architect of some of Buffalo’s powerhouse squads, including the three championship teams in 1997, 1998, and 2004. “He’s trying to change some of the mindset, and there are certain types of changes that any good manager has to have. But he’s made those changes subtly and I think he’s trying to do what’s right for the Toronto Blue Jays. What he tries to do is work with each and every player on the field and try to get the most out of their individual talents, rather than just throwing them on the field and letting them play.”

Few remember that Brown was an All Star at the very first such game back in 1988 here in Buffalo. “I know I made an error,” Brown quipped. All the way back in the first inning. And I got picked off too to end the game. I remember too coming in to play against [the Bisons] and it was tough to win here. The excitement in the air here. And it was the same here in 2004. Buffalo fans stand out more than anything. It’s such a nice facility here and in the course of 25 years here people appreciate the nice ballpark and what it means to have something so nice here.”

Speculation is rampant about the Buffalo Bisons and their future plans with the New York Mets. The affiliation agreement concludes at the end of this season. With the dismal performance of the team on the field during the past three seasons, declining attendance, and the lack of excitement about the Mets’ branding and support in this region, it would not be surprising if Buffalo pulled the switch and brought the Blue Jays in to Coca Cola Field next season. Certainly the Blue Jays would be interested in bringing their players closer to home, having been hooked up with Las Vegas since 2009.

Brown admitted that he is not a party to any such discussions. “I just go out there and manage and take care of what’s going on with the players. Those types of decisions won’t be made with me in mind. Wherever they tell me to go, I go.” But would Brown relish the opportunity to come back to Buffalo and manage the Bisons again? “I love Buffalo. Anytime I have the opportunity to come to Buffalo, I’ll come.”

Brown received a royal welcome during his visit to Buffalo, both on and off the field. “My wife is a bit freaked out right now because everyone is overly friendly and hugging me and shaking hands. She likes the city and likes the people.”

The days following the end of the season will be interesting ones for the Buffalo Bisons. Should the Blue Jays land here, some old and familiar and winning faces might be gracing the downtown ballpark comes 2013.

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