Bob Rich vividly recalls the 1993 World Series between the Blue Jays and Phillies.
His friends within the Toronto organization invited him to Game 6 of the Fall Classic. He sat with his family in some of the best seats the SkyDome had to offer.
Rich's son, Barney, was an avid supporter of Paul Molitor. In the fifth inning, Barney told Molitor to "hit one out." Molitor did just that. Later in the game, Rich claims that Barney shared the same encouragement with Joe Carter moments before the slugger stepped into the batter's box and delivered a World Series-winning home run.
"Barney to this day thinks that he won that game," said Rich, the owner and president of the Buffalo Bisons.
On Friday, the Blue Jays and Bisons officially agreed to a two-year player development contract that will reposition Buffalo as the Triple-A affiliate for the Major League organization. The two-year pact, however, is mere paperwork jargon. These organizations expect to construct a relationship that will last well beyond 2014.
"We want to become part of this community, make sure this marriage is a great marriage, and I'm sure that it will be," said Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston. "We want to be here for years. This is the start of not only a two-year deal. Hopefully it's the start of a 42-year deal."
Toronto's former Triple-A home was in Las Vegas. The move to Buffalo provides the club with a geographically sensible affiliate with which it can work more closely.
"It's going to be a two-way street," said Bisons vice president and general manager Mike Buczkowski. "The opportunities that we have as two organizations to create a baseball corridor, our hope is that more Blue Jays fans will come to Bisons games and more Bisons fans will go to Rogers Centre to watch the Jays."
Former Blue Jays Roberto Alomar, Pat Hengten and longtime manager Cito Gaston presented members of the Bisons' front office with Blue Jays uniforms.
"I feel very confident that this relationship is not only going to grow, but last for a long time," said Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz. "This is going to be the type of relationship that baseball fans are going to be enjoying for years to come."
Buffalo's proximity to Toronto could be a major benefit to the Blue Jays, as players promoted to the big league club can travel from one city to the other in about an hour-and-a-half drive.
"We're here to provide entertainment and a winning environment," Beeston said. "We're here to give back to the community. The ties between Buffalo and Toronto are really strong, and hopefully we can make them stronger."