The Buffalo Bisons and Toronto Blue Jays made it official on paper Tuesday and their new player development contract will be feted Friday during a news conference in Coca-Cola Field.
The teams signed a two-year deal, putting Toronto's top farmhands here for the 2013 and 2014 seasons and making the Blue Jays the fifth parent club of the Bisons' modern era.
"Aligning with the Blue Jays not only gives the Bisons a great regional partner, but also aligns us with one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball," Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. said in a statement released Tuesday. "Toronto has a well-documented commitment to developing exciting young talent throughout their farm system."
"We are thrilled to enter into partnership with the Buffalo Bisons organization and more specifically with Mindy and Bob Rich, whom we have known for many years," said Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Beeston. "This relationship is a natural fit, both geographically and philosophically. The Bisons are committed to winning and the Rich family to providing an environment consistent with the values we are establishing with the Blue Jays. Simply put, we are fortunate they have agreed to align with our program and we thank them for the confidence they have shown in us."
The news conference will be held at 2 p.m. Friday in Pettibones Grille. Bob and Mindy Rich will be on hand, as will Beeston and Blue Jays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Other ambassadors of the new parent club are also expected to attend.
"From a baseball point of view, this is a great fit for our organization," Anthopoulos said.
"With only 160 km (99 miles) separating the two fields, we will have greater flexibility to make roster decisions and an increased opportunity to watch our most developed prospects. We look forward to providing the Bisons with an exciting and talented roster."
The Blue Jays have been in Las Vegas the last four years, making quick player moves from Triple-A difficult because of the travel distance. That problem now moves to the New York Mets, as Buffalo's former parent will replace Toronto there.
The shift to the Blue Jays will force a complete rebranding of the Bisons this offseason.
When the Mets came to town in 2009, the Bisons adopted the Amazins' color scheme and pinstripes and changed their logo to incorporate a charging Buffalo into a Mets-like circular crest. The marketing slogan, featuring a huge banner on the Washington Street side of the stadium, was "A Baseball State of Mind" (think Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind.")
The ballpark's foul poles and the home run line atop the outfield fence were even painted Mets orange. Those, of course, will have to revert to yellow.
The Bisons aren't likely to automatically take some sort of Blue Jays scheme. Their 1988 uniforms unveiled at the opening of then-Pilot Field were a big hit this season as a retro look and some sort of the red, white and navy could be one option. Triple-A teams are mostly moving away from mimicking the parent club; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, in fact, are dumping the Yankees name and pinstripes altogether for next season even though they're remaining a Bombers affiliate. The new name and uniforms have yet to be released.
Bisons slugger Valentino Pascucci, who hopes to continue his career with the Mets next season in Las Vegas, took to his Twitter feed Tuesday to salute Buffalo fans.
"I so want to send out a special Thank You to all of the Bison fans," Pascucci wrote at @PoppaValentino. "Thanks for all the support over the last couple years, you were great."
In other Bisons news, the Rich Products-owned Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League signed a two-year affiliation agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jamestown had been a Florida affiliate for the last 11 years and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary under Rich ownership after the Bisons purchased the Niagara Falls Rapids in 1994 and moved them to Chautauqua County. The Pirates left State College (Pa.) after six years, with the St. Louis Cardinals going from Batavia to State College and Florida heading to Batavia.?