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Jays fly north, but Buffalo remains a major league winner

A line of people gather at the Swan Street entrance of Sahlen Field
Mike Desmond
A packed house watched the last Buffalo game for the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday evening.

Sahlen Field was packed Wednesday, as Buffalo bid goodbye to its adopted major league baseball team. The COVID-19 pandemic had at least one benefit: the Toronto Blue Jays played here for most of two seasons.

"It's a rare opportunity that we get MLB in Buffalo and even more rare that I can see my team in the flesh in Buffalo," said Jays fan Dave Urena. "Who ever thought we'd have MLB in Buffalo. Certainly not I."

It was a crowd pretty much split between fans wearing Jays gear and fans wearing Red Sox gear. For many, this was a family event, giving kids a chance to see a real major league baseball game without leaving Western New York.

A baseball fan shows the back of his jersey with the name YASTREMSKI on it
Mike Desmond
There were as many Red Sox fans as Blue Jays fans in attendance at Wednesday's game.

Soudy grew up in Boston and cheers for the Red Sox, but never had a chance to see her team until Wednesday, arriving with her family.

"This is my first time. Also my kids' first time," Soudy said.
Corey Guzba's Red Sox shirt said "Yastrzemski."

"Yastrzemski was my guy," Guzba said. "I played Little League baseball. My team was Boston and I just lived in this area and everybody's like, Why aren't you a Yankees fan? And I says, You know what, I played for Boston and I'm going to follow them. I'm not a Patriots fan, though. Buffalo Bills."

Kevin O'Brien was different. His shirt was the uniform of a team that never existed, other than on the silver screen.

"From 'The Natural.' It's Roy Hobbs, number 9," O'Brien said. "It was a birthday present about two years ago and I finally get a chance to wear it. I've actually worn it three times to the Jays games, now, since they've been back. But it sat in my closet all last year, during COVID."

The 1984 baseball movie, starring Robert Redford as Hobbs, was filmed at Buffalo locations, including War Memorial and All-High stadiums.

Customers enter the Union Pub and sit at sidewalk tables
Mike Desmond
The Union Pub, across Swan Street from Sahlen Field, was busy Wednesday, as well.

There were also those who gained from the crowds, like the Union Pub, just across Swan Street. The pub is so close to Sahlen Field a customer could probably hear the umpire yell "Play Ball," then sprint across the street and into the stadium in time for the ball to hit the catcher's mitt.

Customers packed the bar, the outside patio and the vacant lots on both sides. General Manager David Medynski said it's been a good run since Opening Day at the beginning of June.

"We have had a ton of people coming in from out of town," Medynski said. "Obviously, with the bigger games like the Red Sox and the Yankees, we had people coming in from all over. We had people coming in even from California to see different games. Go figure. Who knows. We'll take them, though."

After nine innings, it was 7-4 Sox. After a quick break, fans will be coming for the Bisons, as they relocate from their temporary home in Trenton, NJ. The Herd returns to Buffalo Aug. 10.

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.