Watching the home run festivities from Monday Night at Cola-Cola Field had me reminiscing of my first days at then, Pilot Field, when I was a young boy. My father and brother and I went to many games to watch the Bisons and clearly we were caught up in the excitement surrounding the push for a Major League baseball team. I was just turning 10 years old and I thought going to those games in that stadium with my dad was the coolest thing.
Pilot Field was a palace when it opened in 1988. The retro, downtown ballpark with all the amenities of that a Major League Ballpark would have in the late 80’s. The crowds were enormous, they were into every pitch and the build up towards Bob and Mindy Rich bringing a Major League team to the Queen City seemed like the greatest thing of my life.
At that age, I was unaware of the financial and political landscape that runs sports so often these days. It seemed like a lock that Buffalo was going to get one of the expansion franchises. They had everything MLB was looking for: a gorgeous new baseball-only grass stadium, committed ownership, and a fan base that was ready to support it. The governor, mayor and country executive were all on the same page to get it done. The announcement came and Denver and Miami were the teams awarded franchises. I was crushed.
I was at a Mets-Phillies game on July 5th and it was a great night. R.A. Dickey was pitching (one of the best stories in sports this year) and David Wright had a monster night and won the game with two outs in the 9th with the bases loaded. The whole train ride home to my in-laws house, I was thinking of how much fun I had and I was thinking of the Bisons again and just if Buffalo could experience this on a nightly basis. Baseball definitely brings out the nostalgic side of me. It still pains me that a Major League team is not even in the discussion anymore. I understand why but I still don’t like it. It brings to reality that my city that I have loved my whole life is still struggling to make its way in an ever growing country where Western New York seems left out. The thought of losing the Bills makes it worse.
Baseball is better than it has been in quite some time for me. I had a great discussion about it with WGR colleagues Matthew Coller, Sal Capaccio and Channel 2’s Stu Boyar at Porter Cup media day on Monday. Steroids are on its way out. Pitching is back. Young stars are filling up stadiums with fans. My favorite team, the Orioles, are actually in a playoff race and the amount of teams that could make the playoffs is quite long. My 2-year old son likes hitting the wiffle ball off the tee and I think about watching him play Little League someday. I want to get caught up in these playoff races in the final months.
I could go on and on with thoughts, but I encourage you to check out this link from the Atlantic Cities. It shows great videos of Mayor Jimmy Griffin, Governor Cuomo and the opening of Pilot Field as well as a tour of the ballpark from the ground breaking from Mindy Rich. It made me get chills again and mad me sad that their goals of a Major League Team came up just short.
This week, Buffalo will be on the baseball stage again with the Triple-A All-Star game. The stadium will be filled. I just still dream that the next time we see “Pilot Field” filled it’s for opening day for a Major League game sometime in my lifetime.
P.S. Dear Bisons, please bring back the old “Stampede” song to be played after wins. Thanks.