Over the decades, former players have been contenders in the major leagues
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will likely be called up to the majors this year.
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE BUFFALO BISONS
The Buffalo Bisons have a long and illustrious history. There has been a professional baseball team playing in Western New York since 1859; a team known as the Bisons joined the National League in the 1870s.
The current franchise, owned by Bob Rich Jr., has been playing here as a AAA team since 1979, with many great players gracing the field in downtown Buffalo. But few have come close to the star power of the Bisons’ star of the moment, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who will likely be called up to the big club this spring to start what may well be a Hall of Fame career.
Son of a MLB Hall of Famer Vladimir Alvino Guerrero, who retired in 2011, Guerrero came to Buffalo in August and hit .336 over a thirty-game stint. He led the minor leagues in batting average and slugging percentage and hit twenty-nine homers in ninety-five games in 2018. He did all of this before turning twenty, which happened last month.
Guerrero is destined for greatness, but he’s not the only former Bison who will likely make an impact on the big leagues this year. First, and possibly most obviously—when you look at the landscape of former Bisons—is Big Sexy, the ageless wonder himself, Bartolo Colón. Colón made his MLB debut in 1997, two years before Guerrero was even born.
New York Mets pitcher (and Bisons alum) Bartolo Colón pitches during a game against the Colorado Rockies in 2015.
Colón is the only player in Bisons history to ever throw a no-hitter. On June 20, 1997, he shut down the New Orleans Zephyrs, allowing just one batter to reach base on a walk. Though he never matched that feat in his professional career, he has been pitching for twenty-one years. Though he only pitched in nineteen games for the Bisons, he is remembered fondly for his achievement.
Colón struggled while spending the season with three different teams last year, but he’s still a serviceable pitcher, even at forty-six. Though currently unsigned, he says he intends to pitch in 2019—and I wouldn’t count him out quite yet.
Another Bisons alum in the majors who is approaching the ageless wonder phase of his career is Texas Ranger Shin Soo Choo. The thirty-six-year-old just made his first All-Star team last year, thanks, in part, to a record-setting, fifty-two-game, on-base streak in the first half of the season. The Korean native spent most of the 2017 season with the Bisons, as well as a few weeks in 2018, before he made the Indians’ major league roster for good. He struggled in his time with the Bisons, hitting just .260 with three home runs and 26 RBI, but the following year he broke out and established himself as a solid major league player for more than a decade.
There are also notable alums in the dugouts for major league teams. Current Diamondbacks manager, Torey Lovullo, spent three full seasons in Buffalo in 1995, 1997, and 1998. In those final two seasons, Lovullo helped the Bisons win back-to-back league championships. He was a borderline major leaguer, making 303 appearances over eight seasons, but had almost 1,200 hits in an eleven-year career in the minors.
In his first season as Diamondbacks manager in 2017, Lovullo guided his team to the playoffs, and, though they took a step back last season, he is still regarded as a bright light among managers in the game today and is a threat to return to the postseason in 2019.
The Bisons take the field this month, so take the chance to see future star Guerrero Jr., as well as other, less well-known guys who may be names to reckon with in the majors.