BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – This might be Casey Candaele’s first time managing the Bisons, but he’s no stranger to the Herd having played three seasons with Buffalo throughout his 18-year professional playing career.
“Just the fan base and the people that were there and everybody that was backing the Bisons all the time. It was a great place to play and such a friendly atmosphere with the people, they cared a lot and I just loved it there. I had my family up there and we totally enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to that,” Candaele said during his introductory zoom call.
Earlier this month, the Blue Jays announced Candaele will be the new manager of the Bisons and now joins Joel Skinner, Torey Lovullo and Bobby Meacham as managers who also played for the Herd.
Candaele played for the Bisons from 1995 to 1997 and was a part of the team that won their first American Association championship as they swept the Iowa Cubs. While he couldn’t play during the championship series because of a knee injury, he was able to be there in person to see it happen and that was one of his fondest memories with Buffalo.
“Obviously winning the championship there, I did get injured before they won but I did get to fly and watch the game. Bob and Mindy Rich flew me on a plane and I got to watch the final game and us winning. So that was really cool and a great highlight there, the first championship there,” Candaele explained.
“I really enjoyed hanging around with Buster Bison a lot, he was one of my favorites,” he laughed.
This is Candaele’s third season as a manager and fourth overall in the Blue Jays organization. He most recently oversaw all Blue Jays minor leaguers that were not assigned to the club’s alternate training site in Rochester in 2020.
After the minor league season was cancelled last year because of the pandemic, players have to get back in the groove of a normal season. But so far Candaele doesn’t seen any setbacks.
“They worked their tails off in the offseason and kind of did a lot of things to get themselves better and be ready. It was interesting because it seemed like they kind of knew hey we haven’t played in a long time, we want to go in to spring training and be ready to play. So that was kind of the mindset of the minor league players coming in and the big league players as well, they’re itching and ready to go and wanted to get a season started,” Candaele explained.
“Our players minor leagues up to the big leagues have done a great job keeping themselves baseball ready and doing the things they needed to do working out wise and in the cage and on the field to do what they can to get themselves better.”
Another challenge the Bisons face is the uncertainty of where they’ll be playing this year. As of now, they’re supposed to play their home games at Sahlen Field. But it’s still up in the air where the Blue Jays will call home and once again Buffalo could be a destination. That would mean the Bisons will have to relocate.
“You just try and battle through that and hopefully we can get up to Buffalo and have a season but you know those things are decisions that will be made when the time comes and right now we just need to get the team ready to perform and be ready to play if and when that happens,” Candaele said.
Over the years, the Bisons have developed numerous prospects and players that now make big time contributions to the Blue Jays like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio just to name a few. And Candaele hops to keep that going.
“It’s so great to be able to have that in our organization where we developed our own players and they’re coming through and they’re making a stop in Buffalo on the way to the Major Leagues and having a solid career so hopefully we can keep that up and just continue to develop those guys and get them into Buffalo for a year or two then get them to the Major Leagues so that people can see “hey that guy played here and it was enjoyable to watch him and he was a quality guy and now he’s helping out the Major League club.” So you know that’s kind of the objective.”
The Bisons open the season on Tuesday, May 4 against the Worcester Red Sox at Sahlen Field (2:05 p.m.).