Buffalo Bisons: A Forgotten Diamond of the Queen City

To the average baseball fan, it may seem that the only time a notable player rolls through Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo is when on an injury rehab stint.

This season has brought a visiting Skip Schumaker through Buffalo, recovering from a left shoulder dislocation. In 2013, the Bisons saw their own major league affiliate shortstop Jose Reyes of the Blue Jays play a short-lived series on his own recovery from injury. Buffalo has also seen stars like Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, and has even been graced by a Manny Ramirez home run in 2000.  

However, Coca-Cola Field (or Pilot Field, as many still refuse to abandon) serves as much more than an injury recovery base, housing stars for less than a week before return to their large market, high platform teams. Buffalo has housed its fair share of home grown stars, diamonds in the rough, finding their polish in the Queen City. 

The Cincinnati Red’s polarizing second basemen Brandon Phillips found himself with the Bisons for four and a half seasons before catching his big break into the majors. Now Phillips has been selected to three all-star teams, received four gold gloves, a silver slugger award, and has even received votes towards National League Most Valuable Player honors in two different seasons.

The Bisons have also been home to big leaguers Asdrubal Cabrera, Milton Bradley, Tim Wakefield, Shin Soo Choo, Victor Martinez, Jeremy Guthrie, Travis Hafner, and Cy Young award winners Bartolo Colon, Cliff Lee, and RA Dickey.

Similarly, the team has housed Hall of Famers like Connie Mack and Johnny Bench.  

In what turned out to be one of the most highly anticipated baseball games in recent Buffalo history, the Bisons hosted Stephen Strasburg on June 3, 2010 for what was planned and turned out to be his final minor league start before promotion to the major league Washington Nationals. Though much, or all of the anticipation surrounded Strasburg, the Buffalo Bisons threw Dillon Gee that day, a righty who currently boasts a 2.88 ERA in six starts for the New York Mets in 2014 (Worth noting: Strasburg holds a 4.24 ERA through six starts with the Nationals).

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The matchup that day is what Triple-A baseball is about—young, talented, aspiring big leaguers. On a list of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects, multiple Bisons lead the list including Marcus Stroman who leads the team with 36 strikeouts this young season. Youth surrounds the Bisons, in an inescapable fashion—as if anyone would want to escape the excitement.

The Buffalo Bisons breathe youth and possibility, not simply age and lingering injury. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn fill the hallways, not Bengay and ACE bandages. Coca-Cola Field fosters hope, and the aspirations of young ballplayers. The Bisons find the backyard baseball and plastic bat-swinging youngster in all of us, a nostalgia never to be taken for granted.

Obviously the Buffalo Bisons are more than a one-stop practice field for the superstars of baseball. It is time for all Buffalonians to make that distinction as well.