Nearly seven months after the Toronto Blue Jays signed the paperwork to come to Buffalo, Alex Anthopoulos finally got to come here for something other than a press conference or a shopping trip with his wife to her beloved Walden Galleria mall.
He got to watch a baseball game at Coca-Cola Field.
And the Toronto Blue Jays general manager couldn’t have been happier with what he saw Thursday afternoon.
“Even on the drive up here, I’m sitting there talking [on his cell phone] and I was just saying, ‘This is unbelievable being able to get some work done in the car on an hour-and-a-half drive up to the affiliate to see the players,’ ” Anthopoulos said during the Bisons’ season-opening win over Rochester. “Cannot be more thrilled. And just the way we’re treated. I think the best way to summarize it is by asking the players and the staff.
“They said the biggest thing is you’re just treated like a major league team here, just across the board. Whether it’s staff or players, we can’t speak enough about the relationship.”
Anthopoulos was part of a cadre of Toronto officials on hand for the opener. Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar threw a ceremonial first pitch along with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and former Toronto closer Duane Ward also made the trip. The front office was represented by President/CEO Paul Beeston, vice president of special projects Howard Starkman – who was hired in 1976 before the Blue Jays even had a player on their roster – minor-league director Charlie Wilson and minor-league field coordinator Doug Davis.
“You’re going to see a lot of Toronto staff here over the course of the season,” Anthopoulos said. “We were just taking a look at the calendar in the clubhouse and trying to cherry pick games, some of the day games and come back to see Toronto at night. This is great. I plan on trying to be here a lot.”
As for the Blue Jays, Anthopoulos said there’s no concern about the much-hyped parent club even after they scored just three runs in dropping the season’s first two games to Cleveland.
“I’m not worried about the offense because in time it will come,” he said. “I know we’re going to hit. It’s actually similar to last year. Offensively we started out slowly. We pitched well. And then we just exploded from an offensive standpoint. So, I just want to make sure that we pitch. If we pitch the entire year, we’re going to be right there.”
As part of the pre-game festivities, Beeston presented a donation from the Jays Care Foundation, which purchased $10,000 worth of Bisons tickets to be distributed to local youth programs. The distribution will take place through the Bisons’ Community Care Foundation.
“This is a tangible expression of the Toronto Blue Jays’ commitment to the Buffalo Bisons and their goal of making an impact in the Western New York community,” Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with the Blue Jays to bring the joy, passion and fun of baseball to as many people as we can in the Buffalo-Niagara region.”
Anthopoulos said he didn’t have an update on whether former Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero, banished to Class A Dunedin to start the season, will pitch in Buffalo on his way back to Toronto.
“He’s thrown a lot of bullpens and sides and working with our coordinator down there,” Anthopoulos said. “It might be a week or two before he ends up getting in a game. But then at that point he could get in a game and just jump right back up to Toronto. He could come up here. We haven’t gotten that far but I wouldn’t rule out because it’s so close.”
A scary moment came in the eighth inning when home plate umpire Jeff Gosney was hit in the top of the head with a pitch from Rochester reliever Daniel Turpen as Moises Sierra was trying to bunt.
The pitch went off the top of Gosney’s helmet, he crumpled at home plate and was attended to by trainers before leaving under his own power. Gosney was replaced by first base umpire Ben May after a delay of 11 minutes and the game finished with two umpires – May behind the plate and Carlos Torres in the field.
Starting pitcher Todd Redmond has been placed on the disabled list and reliever Bobby Korecky has been added to the Bisons’ roster. Manager Marty Brown expects the team to add a starter to take Redmond’s turn on Monday against Syracuse.
The Herd hosts Rochester again at 1:05 p.m. today (Radio 1520 AM) with righty Ramon Ortiz scheduled to start against righty Kyle Gibson. Fans who attended Opening Day can bring their ticket stub to the ballpark for a $1 ticket to today’s game.