The Buffalo Experience

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It was just before 10:00 a.m. on a dreary Saturday morning as we set out to take in the newest semi-local superfan experience for individuals that are obsessed with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Our motley crew consisted of two certified baseball aficionados, two tolerant significant others, and one 7 ½ month old devotee for whom baseball will one day either be a way of life or a trigger for therapy.

Other than the delays one comes to expect when dealing with a young child or a coffee addicted girlfriend, things were going pretty well as we cruised down the QEW until, at 10:29 a.m., disaster struck in the form of an email from the Buffalo Bisons announcing that the afternoon’s double-header had been cancelled. Phone calls were exchanged, plans were altered, mobile versions of websites were visited, and ultimately we decided to soldier on and attend the next day’s double header instead.

Our hotel was an Expedia gem that turned out to be smack dab in the middle of a hospital complex. Great view though:

Suddenly without plans for the afternoon we decided to do one of the few things we’d ever heard of anyone doing in Buffalo: we went to the mall. After cruising for bargains and picking up beer and some sort of wine-like beverage while pushing a baby cart through Target we felt like we were getting the hang of the Buffalo scene so we opted to forego the highways on the way back to the hotel.

Though I haven’t personally spent a lot of time in Buffalo, I’ve made a number of forays through the city (as well as spending time in other struggling American manufacturing cities such as Detroit and Cleveland). For those in our group that hadn’t I think it was an eye-opening experience to drive through entire neighbourhoods of boarded-up housing.

Once you get past the 1960’s era housing and abandoned buildings on the outskirts of the city, Buffalo has a small, but nice enough downtown with some pretty cool architecture. For dinner Kieran had identified a brew pub that looked pretty good (Pearl St. Grill & Brewery), but upon arrival we discovered there was a lengthy wait. It seemed like a cool spot, but it was probably more lively than this baby-toting foursome was looking for anyway. We called around to a handful of other restaurants and found that they were also booked up. Eventually we found a place called Gabriel’s Gate, which had a more reasonable wait. The décor was nice and the prices were reasonable, but the menu was pretty average. If you’re planning on being in Buffalo for an evening (especially a Saturday evening) I would highly recommend making a dinner reservation (Cantina Loco looked like a good choice).

On Sunday morning we grabbed breakfast at a large greek restaurant called The Towne which offered good value on fairly standard breakfast fare before heading to the park.

Coca-Cola Field was built in 1988 by the same architectural firm that designed Camden Yards in Baltimore (which opened 4 years later). The stadium seats 18,050 and was built with the goal of luring a Major League team in mind (the intention being to add an upper deck if that goal was achieved). The day we happened to be there was the 25th anniversary of the park. It’s a nice field situated right downtown and the concourse offers craft beers and local eats. We were there on a sunny, but chilly afternoon. The team has averaged almost 7,000 fans per game this year, but there were far fewer than that in attendance on this afternoon.  We did, however, manage to meet up briefly with fellow blogger Minor Leaguer from Bluebird Banter- a nice guy who does great work.

On the field a double-header was being played (both games shortened to 7 innings) against the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders. The presence of a 7 ½ month old in our group dictated that we would only be able to stay for the first game, a 6-1 win that featured a strong pitching performance from Dave Bush (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 K). Offensively, the Bisons scored all of their runs in the first inning off of former top prospect Dellin Betances and were lead by 3 hits from Anthony Gose (though he was also picked off once). Andy LaRoche also had a pair of hits and shortstop Ryan Goins delivered the big blow with a 3-run double.

My only prior minor league baseball experience was attending a Lansing Lugnuts vs. Great Lakes Loons game last year in Midland, Michigan. That game was well attended, took place in a beautiful stadium built in 2006, and featured many of the quirks that minor league baseball is known for.

By comparison, the Bisons experience doesn’t fare as well. The stadium is nice, the food and beverage options are good, but the entertainment value isn’t quite at the same level. The team does have a mascot and runs a race between characters dressed as a chicken wing, blue cheese, and celery, but the atmosphere wasn’t as enthusiastic as I’d experienced in Midland. If you’re a baseball fan looking to see some prospects a Bison’s game is worth your while. On the other hand, if you’re a casual ball fan in pursuit of an entertaining outing you may find the Coca-Cola Field experience falls a bit short.

 

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Comments
2 Responses to “The Buffalo Experience”
  1. susan says:

    Did anyone else notice this blog is more about food than baseball…

  2. Matt Brown says:

    Naturally! Food is an essential component of any baseball road trip. And one needs three square meals a day, whereas a team generally plays a maximum of two baseball games a day.

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