Bisons Officially Mum on its Future With Cleveland
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Don't Ask... Don't Tell
It has certainly been an interesting first homestand at Dunn Tire Park this past week.
The Buffalo Bisons opened their 21st season at the downtown ballpark last Friday, and the overriding theme was what will happen to the team’s affiliation with the Cleveland Indians, which has been in place since 1995.
Since signing with the Cleveland Indians, the team has arguably enjoyed its greatest run of success in franchise history—nine playoff appearances and three championship trophies in 13 years. The Tribe’s manager, Eric Wedge, made the almost unprecedented jump from AAA to the top job when he was promoted to Cleveland in 2003. The Cleveland roster is stacked with players who found success and experience while playing for Buffalo.
Yet it will all most likely come to an end at the conclusion of this season, as conventional wisdom says that the Indians will seek to move their AAA team to Columbus and its new downtown ballpark, Huntington Park, slated to open in 2009. Cleveland has its lower level affiliates located in Ohio—in Akron, Mahoning Valley, and Lake County—and is seeking to expand their marketing footprint in their home state.
The Bisons have issued their own gag order on the entire issue, releasing this terse statement just before last Friday’s opening pitch:
“Our player development contract with the Cleveland Indians is in effect through this season and we look forward to working with them to provide our fans with another competitive team to cheer for. The Bisons remain committed to providing our fans with the best possible sports and family entertainment experience every event this season and for many seasons to come. We recognize that having a strong Major League partner is important to our success and we will address our future Major League affiliation at the completion of this season, in accordance with the timetable set forth in the Professional Baseball Agreement.”
So who will be the Bisons’ new parent team in 2009, should the Indians leave? One team that can be ruled out is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have extended their affiliation with Indianapolis for another four years. That leaves three teams—the Washington Nationals, who would be displaced from Columbus, the Toronto Blue Jays, who have worn out their welcome after many woeful seasons in Syracuse, and the New York Mets, who were relegated to New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League after a lengthy relationship with Norfolk.
One thing is for certain—the dynamics have changed considerably since the Bisons last switched affiliates at the end of the 1994 season. Gone are the days when Major League Baseball teams were clamoring and cajoling to place their AAA team in Buffalo. Cities today offer gleaming new ballparks with all the newest bells and whistles, as well as marketing synergies which benefit the big clubs and their affiliates. Clearly, Bob Rich and the front office brass will have their work cut out for them to get the best possible deal for the Bisons.
What’s new at Dunn Tire Park?
Fans coming to the ballpark this season can expect a few new things on their visit. Here is a rapid fire recap:
■ Brendan McDaniels joins the team as the Gameday Host and will lead the on field entertainment between innings including fan contests and team sponsorships. McDaniels has worked as a freelance sportscaster for 10 years, and is best known locally for his on air work with the UB athletics program. He is former Media Relations Director for the Buffalo Destroyers arena football team.
■ WBEN radio News Director Monica Wilson will be taking the microphone as team P.A. announcer, working primarily weekend and Thursday games. Wilson is the first female to take on this role in the team’s history.
■ The Fridaynightbash pregame tent parties have been relocated to the ballpark plaza on the Swan Street side, and will be open to the public for the first time this season (no game ticket necessary). There will be live entertainment and food and drink specials. Of course, postgame fireworks will take place following each Friday night game.
■ Hello, 21st century technology! For the first time tickets are being scanned by barcode instead of torn. The Bisons are also accepting credit cards at all its point of purchase locations, and have also debuted a spending card called “FastBall Cash Card”, a reloadable cash card that can be obtained at the guest relations booth. Receive a $5 coupon for each $100 purchased.
■ Games are back on WWKB 1520, meaning that we can now listen to the broadcasts north of Grand Island and beyond Southgate Plaza once again.
■ New food items include jalapeno and cheese/pepperoni filled breadstix, fried dough and Bisons “B” shaped pretzels. We’ll save our best props for the macaroni and cheese wedges. “Moe’s Southwest Grill,” located at section 101, offers a variety of Mexican and Southwestern-style fare, including tacos and dressed up nachos. The Bisons will also roll out an “All You Can Eat Pack,” a six-game package for $126 that will include all the food you can eat off a select menu.
The Herd begins its second homestand of the season on Saturday, April 26 against the Pawtucket Red Sox (game time 6:05pm).blog comments powered by Disqus
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