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Near-capacity crowd returns to Sahlen Field for major league win

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
A near-capacity crowd filled Sahlen Field Tuesday to watch the major league Toronto Blue Jays.

Buffalo fans turned out for major league baseball Tuesday for the first time locally since 1915 and a ballpark in the middle of what's now the city's Hamlin Park community.

The Toronto Blue Jays played in Sahlen Field last year, but there weren't any fans. It was during some of the worst of the pandemic and visiting teams weren't allowed in Ontario.

This season, Sahlen is home for the Jays, while the usually resident Buffalo Bisons play out of New Jersey as the Trenton Thunder for home games and as the Bisons on the road.

After nine innings Tuesday, its was Jays 5, Marlins 1. It included a big night for former Bison Vladimir Guerrero, who had four hits toward a batting average of .337, 17 home runs and 45 RBIs. (The Bisons also squeeked out a 3-2 win over the Syracuse Mets.)

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The Union Pub on Swan Street was full of fans enjoying some libation before Tuesday's ballgame.

Jay Medynski, general manager of the Union Pub across Swan Street from Sahlen Field, said his place was full of customers Tuesday ready to go to the game.

"Every single one of them and, boy, are we happy. It's actually a good amount of them come back and kind of nest, watch it on TV," Medynski said. "The beauty of being here at the Union Pub, you can literally hear the game, crack of the bat, roar of the crowd, while you're watching it there and get the whole vibe of it right here while you're sitting here, having a nice cold beer."

The crowds approached a sellout 6,000 fans in the stadium, wearing Jays hats and Bisons jerseys. Many in the crowd had never seen a real major league baseball game in person before. In the past, they would have had to go at least the 100 miles to Toronto.

Williams Briggs is willing to travel for a big league game. He has visited 53 ballparks.

"I didn't go to Dunedin (Florida), but I did go to a game at Disney a few years ago," Briggs said, "and some teams, I've seen them in three different home stadiums as they moved over the years. This was a great thrill to have this opportunity."

Jim Hornung was there to check out the new outfield.

"I've been to Cleveland. I've been to Baltimore. I've been around a little bit. But, obviously, the first 15 years when they opened the facility here, I was the head groundskeeper. I'm having fun to come back," Hornung said.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Fans lined up Tuesday to enter Sahlen Field, which had different sections for vaccinated and nonvaccinated visitors.

Last year, the infield was replaced.

Whole families came out to see Tuesday's game. Jose Muniz was there with his nine-year-old daughter Ellie, who's interested in baseball, perhaps playing it.

"Now that everything's getting lifted, I'll be having her play this summer," Muniz said.

It's unclear if the Jays will be in Buffalo all season or until the Canadian border opens for baseball and the teams can play in Ontario's Rogers Center.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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