By: Brian Frank
All-Star shortstop Bo Bichette has played 62 career games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field – 27 as a minor leaguer and 35 as a big leaguer. Bichette was one of a group of players who played for the Triple-A Bisons and then returned to Buffalo when the Blue Jays made Sahlen Field their temporary home.
Bichette first came to the Queen City as a 21-year-old in 2019, when he was ranked as the Blue Jays number two prospect, behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He was also rated the tenth best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline at the time.
“I loved the ballpark and the fans supported us well,” Bichette said of his time as a Bison in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles. “I enjoyed my time there.”
Bichette was baseball's tenth ranked prospect when he was with the Bisons. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
During his time with the Herd, he broke a bone in his left hand, which caused him to miss a month and a half of playing time. In 56 games with Buffalo, he slashed .275/.333/.473 with eighth home runs, 32 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. He was called up to Toronto during the third inning of a late July game in Durham.
“I was out at shortstop and somebody came in to replace me,” he remembered. “I had an idea of what would happen at that moment, but I wasn’t sure – and then I was told.”
“It was a special moment. It’s what I dreamed about my whole life. I was more just ready for the opportunity than anything. It was really cool.”
Bichette played 56 games with the Herd. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Bichette immediately made his presence felt when he arrived in the big leagues. He set a Blue Jays record by recording at least one hit in his first 11 games. Within his first two weeks with Toronto, he set an all-time major-league record by hitting a double in nine consecutive games. He slashed .311/.358/571 with 11 home runs in 46 games during his rookie campaign.
He returned to Buffalo the next season, when the Covid-19 pandemic closed the U.S.-Canadian border and the Blue Jays played their home games in downtown Buffalo. The team played its truncated 60-game schedule in front of no fans due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It was definitely interesting,” Bichette remembered. “I think it was a tough situation for all of us, but the Blue Jays did a great job of making Buffalo feel like home and we made the best out of that scenario.”
Batting practice in Buffalo with the Blue Jays. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Bichette was back playing major-league games at the same field he’d played at in Triple-A.
“I was about a year removed from playing in Buffalo,” he said. “It didn’t feel weird to me. It was just playing ball – and then maybe we had a stadium that looked a little different than everybody else’s.”
The Blue Jays surprised the prognosticators in 2020. After finishing 67-95 in 2019, they went 32-28 and made the American League playoffs. The highlight of the season was defeating the New York Yankees in downtown Buffalo to clinch a playoff berth.
“To make the playoffs was pretty cool for us and something that I’ll always remember,” he said of the night they clinched in downtown Buffalo.
Celebrating a playoff berth in downtown Buffalo in 2020. Photo Credit: Brian Frank
He credits some of the team’s success when they couldn’t play in Toronto with their youth and lack of major-league experience.
“I think we used our unfamiliarity with the big leagues as an advantage, maybe,” he explained. “We were all just trying to play our best and make our names in the game, so we had no time to complain about the situation or anything – and I think that helped us.”
The Blue Jays retuned to Buffalo for part of the 2021 season before finally being allowed to return to Rogers Centre. The team ended up going 29-20 in its two seasons at Sahlen Field.
Batting at Sahlen Field in 2021. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
The 2021 season was a big year for Bichette, he slashed .298/.343/.484 with 29 home runs – and led the American League with 191 hits. He was also selected to participate in his first career major-league All-Star Game.
The son of four-time National League All-Star Dante Bichette has now established himself as one of the best players in the game. He’s on track to lead the A.L. in hits for the third consecutive season and is heading to his second career All-Star game this week.
“It’s really special to be recognized as one of the best players in baseball,” he said of playing in the mid-summer classic. “It’s special. I’m grateful and blessed for the opportunity.”
Taking infield in the Queen City in 2021. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles