By: Brian Frank
Danny Jansen has certainly had his share of memorable moments in Buffalo, from starring with the Bisons to playing in two seasons with the Blue Jays when they made Sahlen Field their temporary home. He recently spoke with The Herd Chronicles and reflected on his time playing in Buffalo.
Jansen first came to the Queen City in 2017, when he slashed .328/.423/.552 in 21 games after being promoted from Double-A New Hampshire late in the season. He returned to the Herd in 2018 and slashed .275/.390/.473 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI. He was named the winner of the team’s Most Valuable Player award for his outstanding season.
Jansen catching for the Herd in 2018. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
“I think the cool thing about Triple-A is there’s a lot of young guys and you’ve got guys who have been in the big leagues,” Jansen said. “It’s a mesh of all those different guys. The whole coaching staff and all the players that I played with in Triple-A that year were just great dudes and it was awesome coming to the ballpark every day with those guys in the clubhouse. Playing here in Buffalo was awesome.”
The excitement in his voice was noticeable when he described the moment he was called up to the major leagues during an early August 2018 game against the Toledo Mud Hens in downtown Buffalo.
“I remember that as clear as day,” he smiled. “I remember I think I was not in the hole, but I was up fourth that inning. It was like the bottom of the seventh or eighth inning and Bobby Meacham came up to me and…”
He paused briefly and then continued: “Well first of all, when the trainer’s telephone rang, everybody was like uh-oh what’s happening? In Triple-A that’s what it was – it was like something’s happening. Are they going to pull somebody up? So in that time, I looked over at Bob Tarpey, our trainer, and he looked at me and made eye contact with Meach (Bobby Meacham) and they pulled me out of the game. I started hugging all my teammates. It kind of didn’t set in yet, but it’s feeling real. I remember I went back and I called my parents and my brother and I called them where the old cage was. I found a nice little spot where I could kind of be alone. I called them and it was very emotional. Everybody was so excited. Obviously had some tears of joy and all that. It was a very, very special night.”
Two days later, he was behind the plate at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City making his major-league debut.
“It was awesome,” he said of his first big-league game. “You’re on a cloud the whole time. It’s something you dream of as a kid. I was fortunate too because my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews, they live out in Kansas City. So it was cool to have them be so close to the debut place. Everybody came out.”
In his first major-league at-bat, Jansen singled through the left side of the infield against Royals starter Brad Keller for his first major-league hit.
“That kind of took away some nerves and some anxiety just trying to get acquainted to the league. Obviously in that first at-bat you want to get a hit out of the way.”
Jansen was very familiar with his battery-mate – it was his former Bisons teammate Sean Reid-Foley, who was also making his major-league debut.
“It helped that I debuted with Sean Reid-Foley,” Jansen said. “It was a guy I had been catching pretty much all year here in Buffalo. I think that calmed both of our nerves down for the first game. I think getting that hit in the first at-bat was a huge sigh of relief. Then it was just go-time from there.”
It certainly was “go time”. Jansen added another single later in the game. The next night, he belted his first major-league home run. He played 31 games for the Blue Jays down the stretch. In 2019, the then 24-year-old established himself as the Blue Jays primary catcher, playing in 107 games.
Jansen during batting practice with the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
No one could have predicted the series of events that would occur in 2020 that brought Jansen back to Buffalo. The Blue Jays came to Sahlen Field to play their truncated 2020 home schedule due to the U.S./Canada border being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Jays returned to Buffalo in 2021 to play twenty-three games before they were granted a National Interest Exemption by the Canadian government to return to Rogers Centre in Toronto.
“It was odd at first,” he said of playing back at his old Triple-A stadium. “Obviously it was a time in the world where there was a lot of uncertainty. We were just grateful to be playing baseball at that time. But I’ll tell you what, coming back here – obviously I’d played here before so I had the familiarity of being here. There were changes that happened with the clubhouse inside, more spacious. They did a great job of getting it ready for big-league games. We came here and competed. It was different but at the end of the day we were playing baseball and we were lucky to play and grateful to play – and grateful to Buffalo for having us.”
In 2020, fans were not allowed in the stands due to COVID restrictions creating a unique atmosphere where cardboard cutout fans surrounded the field.
“It was odd,” Jansen said of playing in an empty stadium. “The whole thing was odd. They had speakers with the crowd noise that tried to fill the gap a little bit.”
Celebrating with his playoff bound teammates in downtown Buffalo. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
On September 24, 2020, the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 4-1 to clinch a playoff berth in downtown Buffalo.
“That was awesome,” Jansen exclaimed. “That was a lot of our first experience clinching a playoff berth. It was just a really cool thing. It was special, an amazing feeling. Obviously, it was a short postseason for us but that was – you know, playing those meaningful baseball games for an organization, as a group, as a team, were huge for us. Gaining experience from it. That was just the start for us. Now we’re trying to get back every year.”
Jansen got off to a scorching start this season. After overcoming an oblique injury earlier in the year, he posted a .915 OPS and hit seven home runs in nineteen games before breaking his left pinky finger when he was hit by a pitch. Now he’s back in downtown Buffalo on a rehab assignment. He also rehabbed in Buffalo for five games last season.
“Obviously you don’t want to rehab, but when you come down here and play here with this staff and these players, it’s not so bad. It’s so close. It’s an hour and a half away from Toronto. Also, all the renovations. The cages are state of the art now. They’re great in there. There’s more space in the clubhouse and the weight room. The staff here and the players here – it’s just a great environment and it’s a great place to be.”
In the new Sahlen Field bullpen with the Blue Jays. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Jansen with the Herd in 2018. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles