By: Brayden Peters
Ernie Clement slides into home plate in the Bison's win over the Red Wings on August 9, 2023. (Photo: Rochester Red Wings/Ethan Bessinger)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - It was a special day for Rochesterians as two local born pro players, Ernie Clement and Greg Cullen, were at Innovative Field to sign autographs. Many young Blue Jays and baseball fans were happy to see their local heroes sign their cards, baseballs, and hats.
Clement grew up in Rochester while Cullen was raised outside of Rochester in Penfield. To both players, visiting their hometown means a lot to them.
"The people in Rochester is why we come back," Clement said. "It's a very tight knit community and we're very thankful that we have the support that we get."
Not only that, but Rochester's history in baseball is deep. Cullen considers it to be something beneficial for him and Clement.
"It's a privilege," Cullen said. "It's just a special place. We love coming back."
Both players have made names for themselves in the minor leagues. Clement enjoyed a solid season with the Buffalo Bisons, posting a batting average of .348, along with getting 57 runs, 100 hits, 11 home runs, 58 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases while having 287 at bats. With how well he did with the Bisons, he got called up to play with the Toronto Blue Jays for a bit, recording seven runs, 19 hits, one home run, 10 RBIs, and one stolen base along with 50 at bats. Clement really enjoyed playing with the professionals based upon how they are as people and how they perform on the field.
"The coolest part is that they're just normal guys that just love baseball and they love being in the locker room with the boys, just hanging out," Clement said. "To watch those guys go to work every day, it's pretty impressive because they're incredible players, but they worked their tails off."
Greg Cullen warms up with the Mesa Solar Sox on November 9, 2021. (Photo: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Although Cullen didn't see anytime with a successful Baltimore Orioles team, he still produced with the Triple-A Norfolf Tides. Cullen had a .266 batting average while putting up 20 runs, 53 hits, four home runs, 25 RBIs, and four stolen bases acorss 199 at-bats.
Cullen found his love for baseball not only because just of the city itself being deeply rooted in the sport, but thanks to the Rochester Red Wings. During his senior year of high school, he went to around 20 Red Wings games and it helped him become more into the sport.
"This is where found my love for baseball," Cullen said. "To be playing at the same level is a privilege."
Even for both players, coming to play at Innovative Field was special to them. They were the games they looked forward too always or even when the Red Wings came to play against their teams.
Clement was emotional talking about his hometown and how much of an impact it has made on him. However, he and Cullen have made an impact on Rochester and the rest of Western New York. Outside of Clement being one of the star players of the Bisons, Cullen enjoyed his time with the Niagara Purple Eagles. In his career with the Purple Eagles, he had a .368 batting average, 118 runs, 208 hits, seven home runs, 96 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases while having 572 at bats. Being from Western New York is something that both Clement and Cullen are proud of.
"We take pride in being from Upstate New York," Cullen said. "There's not too many of us, but we've kind of shown that there is a path to get there. You look around the locker room and there's not one specific way to get there. So, you just have to, like we said, keep having fun, enjoy the process because it is a process and enjoy it while it lasts."
In the mean time during this offseason, both Clement and Cullen will be working together, training for the next season. They'll do so right back where it all started; at home in East Rochester at Power Train Sports and Fitness.