The Bisons and Blue Jays certainly were putting on the ritz Friday afternoon in Pettibones Grille, as they made their two-year player development agreement official. Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. and Blue Jays president/CEO Paul Beeston signed the documents, and Blue Jays ambassadors Roberto Alomar, Pat Hentgen and Cito Gaston presented named Jays jerseys to Bob and Mindy Rich, Buffalo president Jon Dandes, GM Mike Buczkowski and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
"We want to become part of this community and make sure the marriage is a great marriage and I'm sure that it will be," Beeston said. "We want to be here for years. This is the start of not a two-year deal. Hopefully it's the start of a 42-year deal."
The Blue Jays, of course, love the fact they no longer have to shuttle their prospects to and from Las Vegas. The Bisons are thrilled with the idea of having a chance at a winning team after four often-rugged years with the Mets.
"It's huge," said Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. "I don't even know if huge is a strong enough word. This is unbelievable for us."
Beeston and the Riches are longtime friends; Bob, Mindy and then 14-year-old Barney Rich had field seats for the Joe Carter home run that won the 1993 World Series and Bob Rich joked that Beeston stayed friends with him to get good Sabres tickets. The Blue Jays current staff includes the likes of former Bisons players and managers John Farrell, Torey Lovullo and Marty Brown.
"This is rejuvenating because we have so many ties with the Blue Jays," Bob Rich told The News following the formal press conference. "It's like old home week for us with Paul Beeston, Torey Lovullo, Marty Brown and John Farrell. This transcends baseball. The future of Buffalo is inexorably tied with the future of the Niagara Peninsula and we can do things that transcend just the game culturally and economically for the area. That's got me really excited."
In quick news items:
---The Blue Jays have not decided on their field staffs for 2013 and Buczkowski said the Bisons absolutely want Brown, who led them to a title in 2004, to come back.
---The Bisons will unveil Buffalo-centric logos and uniforms, with the logo coming in a couple of months and the uniforms likely unveiled in January.
---The Bisons are having loose discussions with the Blue Jays about an exhibition here on March 31 -- either against the Triple-A club or having Toronto play its final spring training game against another major-league team. Anthopoulos said the Jays could work something out for that date, which is currently open after games the previous two days in Philadelphia.
Audio and video from the press conference to come.
Photo by Charles Lewis/Buffalo News: Rich and Beeston shake after signing the new deal.