With less than a week to go until Opening Day, the Toronto Blue Jays received word on Saturday that their request to play home games at Rogers Centre would be denied by the Canadian government. While the municipal and provincial governments had approved the MLB health and safety protocols, the federal health authorities balked at the Jays and visiting teams flying in to Canada from coronavirus hotspots in the United States.
This decision has been met with approval from the general public in Canada, but it leaves the Blue Jays without a home ballpark for the upcoming season.
Some of the options previously under discussion included Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY, the home of the Jays’ AAA team, as well as the team’s Grapefruit League facility in Dunedin, FL. Neither of these parks are major-league facilities.
According to pitcher Anthony Bass and outfielder Teoscar Hernández, the Jays players would prefer a major-league facility. Bass added that they are willing to share facilities with another team and expressed concerns about playing in COVID-19 hotspots like Florida.
This may explain why the team is reportedly exploring an arrangement with the PIttsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh is located near Toronto’s opponents for the 2020 season and north of the current Sun Belt corona hot zone.
Due to scheduling conflicts, there is no one MLB stadium that will be able to host the Jays’ home games for an entire season.
According to Davidi, the Jays would be best served by playing at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. from July 29-August 2 and August 14-16, and Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD for the rest of the schedule. This would allow them to remain in the same geographical area.
Another option would be to set up in Chicago, IL and “ping-pong between the White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field [and] the Cubs’ Wrigley Field[.]” However, two dates, August 15-16, would not be spoken for.
While this situation leaves the Jays at a competitive disadvantage, Canadian fans seem to approve of the government’s decision. The Jays will also not be forced to spend their homestands in a quarantine bubble, which had been criticized by Travis Shaw, whose comments have made him fans’ least favorite new acquisition.
Toronto opens the 2020 season on Friday, July 24th against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL. Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the mound against Charlie Morton. The weekend series will be followed by four games against the Washington Nationals, the first two at Nationals Park in DC. The location of the final two games is anybody’s guess.
Featured Image: Blue Jays sign at store in Eaton Centre, Toronto by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.