Jays From the Couch takes you on a tour of the Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate Buffalo Bisons’ Coca Cola Field. The fan experience is here for you.
The first time I made the trip down the QEW to Buffalo, I admit I had no idea what to expect. I love Blue Jays baseball, and have often referred to the dome (Rogers Centre to many) as my happy place. There is just something so incredible about live baseball. It invokes so many feels, both highs and lows, and being there to witness it as often as possible, is the goal of the season. With the Blue Jays consistently selling out these days, especially on weekends, there is a perfect solution to that great live baseball feeling: Coca-Cola Field and the Buffalo Bisons.
It is a relatively hidden gem in the Blue Jays organization, and a baseball experience Toronto Blue Jays fans should definitely take advantage of. The Blue Jays have their Triple A team just a short drive away, and as the players make their way up and down the highway, fans can too.
Coca-Cola Field is a baseball lovers ballpark. Built in time for the Buffalo Bisons’ 1988 season, it’s been called the jewel of downtown Buffalo, and for good reason. The stadium is a place geared towards a fun fan experience. There seems to be so much going on all the time and so much to take in. It has taken a couple of trips to fully understand all that Coca-Cola Field has to offer.
The 17,600-seat park, located in the heart of downtown buffalo, is quite big by MiLB standards. It is, in fact, the biggest. Renovations on the park will continue throughout the offseason with the addition of the new larger seats, bringing the capacity down to approximately 16,900 for the Bisons 30th season, though it will remain the biggest MiLB ballpark. Don’t let the size fool you though, it has the atmosphere of community baseball league where you feel a part of the game and can get quite close to the players, many
of whom have made the trek up the QEW to play in the dome for the Blue Jays.
As I walked around to take it all in, Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News acted as a tour guide of sorts, pointing out areas of interest, history, and funny stories that have happened over the years. One of the standouts? Chris Dickerson‘s grand slam in 2015 right into a bowl of potato salad being served at a private function in their bar area in right field.
In that same area, if you walk into the back parking lot, there are painted circles from the out of the park home runs that have been hit. They are complete with names and dates of the hit. It truly is an amazing sight.
The park itself has two concourses, though the first concourse is busier with a great variety of food and drink. As a cheeseburger aficionado I actually bypassed my staple in order to try the famous Beef on Weck. It didn’t disappoint with its heaping portion of beef on this crazy sort of bagel bread I was told was called kimmelweck made with salt and caraway seeds. It was pretty great, as was the staff that served me. Friendly and accommodating seems to be the norm at Coca-Cola field. Now picture this great sandwich with a side trip to the Consumers Craft Brew Corner to add a local craft beer to your grasp and you’re set for the game.
The Bisons have their Hall of Fame on the first concourse, a great find for any baseball fan or history buff. It features cool rotating exhibits of Bisons and baseball history. It’s small, intimate, and the exhibits well executed. They’ve done themes in the past, one being “The Natural” which was filmed in Buffalo.
It’s definitely a quirky park as well, with the road so close behind left-field I had to ask how many cars have been hit by home runs in that area. Though he didn’t give me an exact figure, Harrington laughed at the question, saying he listens to the radio broadcast to see where the game is at before taking that route! Can you imagine a ball coming at you on the ramp to the Gardiner??
If there’s any question of Canadian fans feeling out of place, there’s no worries here. There are many Ontario licence plates in the parking lot, and the Canadian Anthem is played with the American Anthem before each game. It’s a nice, welcoming touch for any Canadian fan coming across the boarder.
One cannot write an article about Coca-Cola Field without mentioning the crazy phenomena that is the condiment/food race that happens in the fifth inning. Though happening in many parks in the U.S, it’s something many Blue Jays fans have never seen before. Celery, Chicken Wing, Atomic Wing and Bleu Cheese run a race from the outfield to home and the fans really get into the spectacle of it all. Word is, it’s usually Celery that loses.
Coca-Cola field is definitely worth the trip down to Buffalo, to see a great game of ball, played by some familiar faces. Players like Danny Barnes, Bo Shultz, Andy Burns, Chris Colabello, and Dalton Pompey are there doing there thing, as well as answering the call from the Blue Jays when needed.
With only just under a 1/4 of the baseball season left and the desire to see great baseball action live, there is still time to bring the family to see the Blue Jays family in Buffalo. One thing to keep in mind? The International League is close to the end of the season. The last Buffalo home game is scheduled for Thursday September 1 against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders. If you’re thinking of a road trip, this truly is a family friendly and affordable way to get that Blue Jays fix. I know I’m going back, and now that I know how great is, it will be even more often next year.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.