Professional Baseball: Negrych back in Buffalo, this time as a Bison
The Toronto Blue Jays formally welcomed Jim Negrych into its family and back to his hometown of Buffalo when the 27-year-old free agent signed a minor league deal during a press conference at Coca-Cola Field on Nov.20.
It was part of a triple-header of announcements that also saw the Buffalo Bisons introduce its new logo and officially welcome back Marty Brown as the team’s manager.
Negrych, a 2003 St.Francis High School graduate and two-time All-Western New York selection in baseball, played 91 games for the Syracuse Chiefs last season. He hit .261 with eight home runs for the Washington Nationals top farm club.
“Jim is a local kid from St. Francis High School and we’re delighted to welcome him to the Blue Jays organization,” Charlie Wilson, director of Blue Jays Minor League operations, said as he introduced Negrych to the media.
As well as he played, Negrych found himself looking for a new club. When the Jays came calling Negrych knew he could not have asked for a better situation than to play Triple-A ball in his hometown.
“It’s a great opportunity, to be part of the Blue Jays organization,” Negrych said.
While excited that his continuing road to the Major Leagues will be winding through his hometown, what is truly making Negrych smile is that the Blue Jays value his skill. Negrych knows that this isn’t a marketing ploy by the Jays to sign a local boy and sell some jerseys. The Jays know Negrych is a quality player who can help the Bisons win.
“That’s really the only thing that mattered to me when it came to signing here,” Negrych said. “Obviously knowing it’s their minor league Triple-A affiliate mattered, but for the most part I wanted to be with an organization that respected me, liked the way I played and had good reports on me for their scouts
“Now if I was 35- or 36-years-old and I was on my last legs then yeah I would probably take a job here just to play in Buffalo,” he added. “But I’m not at that stage yet. I wanted to make that perfectly clear to them and they made it perfectly clear to me that this wasn’t just because I was from Buffalo. They liked me as a player.”
Originally a sixth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2006 entry draft, Negrych made his debut in the downtown ballpark on June 17,2010 as a member of the Indianapolis Indians. He stroked a two-run homer off of Pat Misch to lead the Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Herd in that memorable homecoming.
Last season, Negrych returned to Buffalo as a member of the Chiefs and as a last minute addition to the International League roster for the 25th Triple-A All Star Game that was played in Buffalo on July 11.
Brown, who managed the Pacific Coast League all stars, got a look at Negrych during the All Star Game. Though Brown said its a bit tough to get a true read on a players skill based on one game or watching batting practice, he did say that he has heard nothing but good things about Negrych’s character.
“What I’ve heard is he’s a scrappy type (of) player that stays within himself,” Brown said. “He doesn’t have one tool that stands out above the rest; he’s kind of a complete player...He plays to win. I look forward to seeing him.”
Negrych, who has hit safely in seven of the eight pro games he has played in at Coca-Cola Field, said he hasn’t given much thought to what it will be like playing a full season in front of family and friends.
He’s just focused on doing the best he can as he works his way to the ultimate dream of making the big leagues. But while playing for his hometown team comes with great excitement, Negrych knows expectations will be just as high.
“I have just got to make sure I play well so that you (media) guys are still nice to me at the end of the year,” Negrych joked.