Miami Marlins help usher in MLB’s return to Buffalo, New York, after 105-year wait

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David Wilson
·4 min read
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Jon Berti familiarized himself with Buffalo, New York, for a bit longer than he would have liked last decade. Berti spent parts of four seasons playing for Triple A Buffalo from 2015 to 2018 while he toiled in the Toronto Blue Jays organization before he left for the Miami Marlins as a minor-league free agent before last season.

He formed quintessential Buffalo opinions, like preferring the Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar to Duff’s Famous Wings. He learned way too much about lake-effect weather and wind patterns. Now he gets to play in the city’s first major-league game in 105 years.

“A lot of good memories here,” Berti said, “but it’s a lot more fun coming back, playing a big-league game here, as opposed to a minor-league game.”

The last time Buffalo hosted a Major League game, it was 1915 when the Buffalo Blues played their home finale against the Baltimore Terrapins at the International Fair Association Grounds. Rube Marshall pitched a complete game for the Blues, and Jack McCandless came a home run shy of the cycle for the Terrapins. Miami had been an incorporated city for less than 20 years, and South Florida’s first professional baseball game was still 50 years away.

The century-long drought ended Tuesday when the Blue Jays hosted the Marlins for their first home of the year at Sahlen Field, forced to play there because of Canadian travel rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I enjoyed playing here. It’s a nice stadium,” said Berti, who started at second base. “I always liked the playing surface as an infielder. I thought they did a phenomenal job.”

The stadium spent the last few weeks upgrading to get to MLB standards. Lights were upgraded, the infield resurfaced and the facades repainted blue for the stadium’s new occupants. The stadium also transformed batting cages into locker rooms, and bathrooms and concourses into workout facilities to allow for social distancing.

As much as things have changed, Berti still has some insight about some of the stadium’s quirks from his time playing there with the Buffalo Bisons. One of the hallmarks is unpredictability.

“A little bit here and there, just kind of how the ballpark plays,” said Berti, who could also play shortstop and outfield in this quick two-game series, “but it kind of just depends on sometimes how the wind is blowing off the lake there and depending on if the ball’s going to fly to right a little better or left a little better.”

Miami Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly looks out from the dugout during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Philadelphia.
Miami Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly looks out from the dugout during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Coronavirus continues to affect MLB

Even after the Marlins’ and the St. Louis Cardinals’ seasons were thrown into turmoil by COVID outbreaks, the seriousness of the situation apparently did not get across to everyone.

The Cleveland Indians have placed two starting pitchers into isolation since Sunday because of violations of team and MLB virus-prevention rules. On Saturday, Mike Clevinger and Steve Plesac left their together to go out in Chicago. The team quickly found out about Plesac’s violation and had him drive home separate from the team. The starter did not, however, tell the team Clevinger was with him, which meant Clevinger flew home with the team.

While Don Mattingly declined to comment on the specifics of the situation, the manager made it clear the Marlins won’t tolerate potential violations like this, especially after what they have gone through early this season with 18 players testing positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m going leave that one alone,” he said, “stay out of everybody else’s dugout. ... That’s Cleveland’s deal. If it was our situation, I think we’d be disappointed.”

The Marlins have been on the road for the entire regular season so far because of the outbreak, which spread through the team during its season-opening series in Philadelphia. Since resuming play last Tuesday, the Marlins played eight games in seven days before a day off Monday. On Wednesday, they will finally be able to return home. Mattingly said the Marlins can’t let it lull them into a false sense of security.

“What I really worry about is going home, is guys finally going, Oh my God, it’s so good to be home, and then you kind of let down that way, so that’ll be one of the things that we’ll be talking about when we finally get back home,” he said, “but it will be nice to get home.”

Meanwhile, MLB continues to take the outbreaks seriously. Since the outbreaks, the league has had discussions about potentially using a bubble-type format for the postseason, ESPN reported. The bubble would likely be modeled on the NHL’s multicity format, rather than the NBA’s single-site bubble.