The Buffalo Bisons are hoping the success of their big league baseball affiliate, the Toronto Blue Jays, translates into more interest in the prospects playing in Buffalo. But months before the season opener, team officials are concerned about the declining Canadian dollar and how it may affect the turnout by Ontario-based fans.
The Bisons hosted their annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Adam's Mark Hotel on Wednesday afternoon. Among those in attendance were two pitchers seeking permanent spots on the Blue Jays' roster, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.
The Blue Jays enter the 2016 baseball season as defending American League East champions. Their 2015 roster featured many who developed in Buffalo before earning promotion to Toronto. Having demonstrated their role as a pipeline for future Blue Jays stars, the Bisons are hoping the excitement of the Blue Jays' recent postseason run will draw more interest in the Triple A-level club.
Threatening to cool that excitement is the declining Canadian dollar. In mid 2014, the "loonie" had a value of about 94 cents US. As of Wednesday, its value dropped to about 69 cents US.
"We've heard from some of our Canadian ticket holders about the concern of that," said Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski at a news conference prior to the start of the team's Hot Stove Luncheon. "We've offered a special discount for Canadian season ticket holders. We're not going with the exact exchange rate. We're going with 15 percent on season tickets."
Buczkowski said the Bisons are discussing other options and will announce more plans closer to the start of the season.
The team has enjoyed its relationship with the Blue Jays organization and wishes to build upon it, strengthening what Buczkowski described as a "baseball corridor" between Buffalo and Toronto. One of the two Blue Jays players in town for the Hot Stove Luncheon expressed his appreciation for having the parent club and its top minor league partner in close proximity.
"Going through the ranks, knowing Buffalo was only an hour-and-a-half drive away, itching to get to the big leagues ... being a hop, skip and a jump to the Rogers Centre is motivating for sure," said Aaron Sanchez, a pitcher who spent parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons in Buffalo.
"To be able to get into a car service to make your (major league) debut is a lot better than having to get on a four-and-a-half hour flight, for sure."
Weather permitting, the Bisons open their 2016 International League season at Pawtucket on April 7. Buffalo is scheduled to host its home opener, against Rochester, on the afternoon of April 14.