For the second time this year – I am attending a Toronto Blue Jays home game, which is NOT being played in Toronto. The venue this time is starkly different than where I saw them play just a mere 9 weeks ago. Back in May, the Jays were playing their regular season home games at their Spring Training facility in sunny Dunedin on the West Coast of Florida just 20 minutes from Tampa. They have since switched their digs to their AAA affiliate Buffalo Bisons – Sahlen Field.
The Jays are very familiar with this ballpark since they were forced to play all of their home games here last season due to the strict COVID restrictions that were in place not allowing cross border travel between the US and Canada.
Today’s game the last that they are playing here before moving back into their home digs in Toronto next week. It will be the first time that a team has played multiple home games in three different stadiums in one season.
Back in the mid-80s, Buffalo was hoping to get a Major League team either thru expansion or relocation. While Buffalo was one of five finalists, in 1993 the National League chose instead to expand to Denver and Miami. In anticipation of being awarded a franchise, this ‘retro-style’ ballpark was built featured classic and distinctive architecture, a grass, baseball-specific design and a location within the downtown core that would be copied in the major leagues by Baltimore four years later and many new major and minor league parks that were built in the 1990s and beyond.
Sahlen filed is located in Downtown Buffalo, not very far from Lake Erie and the Canadian border and even closer to the new Canalside neighborhood and Harbor Center. In the blocks closest to it, there are a lot of decent options for pre/post-game dining and drinking including Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, Washington Square Tavern and Irish Times.
But aside from this, as far as host cities go, Buffalo is well into the lower tier. The primary reason anyone visits here is to see Niagara Falls (which I did when I saw the Bills play in 2018). Aside from the Canalside area and the obligatory visit to Anchor Bar (the alleged ‘birthplace’ of the Buffalo wing) there really isn’t a lot to see and so in this city and there are a lot of areas that really should be avoided. But it is a city that is rich with history.
The stadium features a high left field screen to protect the traffickers heading down Oak Street and a looming 80’ x 33’ HD screen which stands as the main focal point in the stadium.
There are some decent food options at the park including local favorites like ‘Beef on Weck’ sandwich and Fried Bologna and Onions sandwiches. To cater to their ‘north of the border’ fans, poutine is also an available option as well as Labatt’s beer. The Sahlen Company is the largest regional meat purveyor, so obviously every type of ‘cased meat’ sandwich is also available.
Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling only lasted a third of an inning as the Sox lit him up in an 8 run top of the first en-route to a 13-4 victory. Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam, Kiké Hernández drove in three runs. Dylan Santana and Rafael Devers also went yard, and J.D. Martinez broke out of a slump with four hits. Bosox starter Nick Pivetta scattered 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings to win his 8th game against 4 losses.
So, tomorrow morning I bid farewell to Buffalo (almost certainly for the final time) and head back home to NJ. Next on my agenda (still tbd) will be a trip back to Arlington to see the new Globe Life Field.
Fans – C – Very blue collar, but not in a hip Boston or New York kind of way. Kind of ‘yocally’. Friendly though.
Features – B – Not a lot of outstanding features, but a really sweet retro style which actually served as a model for many of the retro parks that were built from Camden Yards onward.
Location – B+ – Great downtown location. Walkable to Canalside. Plenty of good places for food and booze before or after the game
Food – B – Some decent local fare. Nothing extraordinary. No wings!
Game – B – Good AL East matchup with lots of offensive firepower.
Overall Experience – C– Nice enough time, but nothing really memorable about it.