Niagara Gazette

April 1, 2013

Bisons raise hopes for better ball this season

By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s no fooling that on Thursday afternoon, the Buffalo Bisons will play the very first minor-league game of 2013 season.

In a rarity almost without precedent, all the full-season minor leagues open on the same date and the Herd, hosting Rochester at 2:05 p.m., has the only day game. At last read, the weather forecast was bearable, mid-40s, sunny, plenty of good seats available.

The Herd has had an interesting spring. In “games” at Dunedin, it won with Cy Young knuckle-baller R. A. Dickey on the mound (he “broke out” at one of Buffalo’s all-time great openers, a complete-game victory in 2010) and beat Ironpig-for-a-day Roy Halladay.

It demonstrates the triviality of minor-league “exhibitions,” basically pickup games inflicting migraines on scorekeepers. Base Paths remembers one (during the Pittsburgh administration) in which one particular Bison was directed to lead off every inning. Half-innings stop in the middle of an at-bat because of secret pitch-counts. Sometimes, in the fashion of softball’s “international tie-breaker,” an inning will begin with a chosen runner on first, or third.

Through all the delightful silliness, it begins to appear as if Buffalo will have a team more competitive than any during the four-year famine inflicted by the Mets. There’ll be Western New York All-Star Jim Negrych (St. Francis High) at second and there were no hard feelings at all when the Blue Jays sent down centerfielder Anthony Gose. He’d said at the Hot Stove luncheon in January he expected to be here.

And for a few hours Tuesday he, or somebody in that game, is going to lead the whole world in base hits. Play ball!

PURPLE PROSE

Wynton Bernard, 2012 Niagara University outfielder drafted by San Diego, played well enough in spring training to earn the reward of a spot in a major-league exhibition game. He grounded out and made one play in the field, according to NU Coach Rob McCoy, freezing his notes off at Canisius last Tuesday.

“He’s an athlete,” McCoy said, admiringly. Bernard hit .232 and went 4-for-4 stealing in the rookie-level Arizona League last summer. Likely assignment: Fort Wayne or Lake Elsinore. But the Herd’ll hit first.

SECTION P

So help us, the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs have installed a video game in an appliance in the men’s rest room. We’ll spare the details, on the premise that some may be reading this over breakfast. Pass the juice. ‘nuff said.

BECAUSE YOU INSIST

American League, Baltimore, Detroit, Angels; Toronto and Yankees the wild cards; National League, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco; Cincinnati and Philadelphia the wild cards, Atlanta over Angels in the Series, Bisons miss playoffs by two games, largely due to late call-ups.

Now let’s play!

Signal back to Base Paths via pollyndoug@hotmail.com.