Blue Jays usher in MLB’s return to Buffalo for first time since 1915

The Toronto Blue Jays ushered in Major League Baseball’s return to Buffalo, New York, for the first time since 1915 with a 5-4 win in the 10th inning over the Miami Marlins at Sahlen Field on August 11.

Having spent nearly three weeks on the road, the Blue Jays played the first game in their new home for the 2020 season after the Canadian federal government denied the club’s bid to play at their normal home venue, Rogers Centre in Toronto, amid concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic and the club’s prior plans for numerous border crossings between the United States and Canada. 

After that ruling, the Blue Jays ran into similar government opposition for attempts to play at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park, as well as a significant time crunch with Maryland officials to run through the approval process to play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

The Blue Jays’ victory in their temporary new home was the first major league game in Buffalo since 1915, when the Buffalo Blues played in the short-lived Federal League.

Sahlen Field is the home of the Blue Jays’ Triple-A minor league affiliate the Buffalo Bisons. The venue has been redesigned with Blue Jays colors and logos to help its new tenants feel at home, while the lighting has been upgraded to MLB standards.

“I was actually concerned about everything,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said about the venue. “Of course, it’s not a big-league ballpark, but the job they did here, it’s amazing. It feels like a big-league ballpark right now. Everything looks great. Toronto Blue Jays (logos) everywhere and the players are happy and pleased so that means a lot to me.”

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins added: “[The players’] reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. There’s smiles on guys’ faces and I think seemingly guys are appreciative of the amount of work and just attention to detail, thoughts on using the space in a safe way and also in a productive way that guys will feel they have what they need to get ready to compete at the highest level.”

Buffalo, which had multiple iterations of big league baseball in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the earliest days of the sport as a professional entity, over the past several generations has on multiple occasions unsuccessfully sought a MLB expansion franchise. But more recently, it has settled in as consistently one of the top-performing markets in all of Minor League Baseball.

The Blue Jays have been affiliated with the Bisons franchise since 2013, and there are 18 former Bisons players on the Blue Jays’ 2020 Opening Day roster, including 15 who played in Buffalo just last year.