By Mike Harrington
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski took the field tonight at the end of the third inning with a surprise announcement to the Fan Appreciation Night crowd at Coca-Cola Field -- the Bisons and Blue Jays have agreed to a two-year extension of their player development contract, which will now run through the 2016 season.
The Bisons and Blue Jays signed a two-year deal last September and clearly made a quick decision to extend the deal so there would be no discussion of it next year. That said, the move was not unexpected. When the teams signed last fall, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston noted it was a two-year deal he hoped would last for 42 years.
Anthopoulos and Buczkowski officially signed the deal in front of fans at a table placed in foul territory in front of the Buffalo dugout between innings, with their handshake drawing a huge round of applause from the big crowd. There was a brief video presentation, accompanied by the musical ditty "OK, Blue Jays" that has been a part of Toronto baseball for more than 30 years.
Anthopoulos and Buczkowski are scheduled to meet the media shortly to discuss the extension.
In meeting the media in the press box during tonight's game, Anthopoulos succinctly put his organization's position out there: "It was a no-brainer for us. I think anybody in Toronto could make this call.""When we signed, we were pretty excited and we were confident that we were going to be very happy," Anthopoulos said. "It's been that and beyond."
We knew that it was going to be good," Buczkowski said. "We expected we would get more fans and attendance would increase but especially on our weekend dates when you know how many people are here from Canada wearing Blue Jays jerseys, it's exceeded our expectations."
The Bisons have not announced tonight's attendance but it appears to be in the 16,000 range and the team's jump from last year will likely be in the 10 percent range.
"We've seen a tremendous response from fans, both longtime followers and new supporters, since affliating with the Blue Jays," Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. said in a statement. "We've found a great teammate in the Blue Jays and every element of our business is better with the strong commitment of our major-league partner."
Said Beeston in the same statement: "Our partnership with Mindy and Bob Rich and the entire Buffalo Bisons organization has exceeded our expectations. Our thanks to President Jonathan Dandes, General Manager Mike Buczkowski and Chief Operating Office Joseph Segarra, who represent a talented organization that is among the finest in baseball. We look forward to working together to bring winning teams to both cities for the next three seasons and many more to follow."
The status of manager Marty Brown will be discussed during the offseason, which is common for the Blue Jays organization. There's certainly a good chance, however, that the franchise's modern-era leader in victories will return in 2014 for his fifth season at the head of the Herd
"They know how I feel about Buffalo and they know I'd love to be back here," Brown told me prior to today's game.