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Blue Jays Celebrate Homecoming While Fourth Wave Threatens Canada

As a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government, the Toronto Blue Jays did not play a home game at Rogers Centre in Toronto from September 29, 2019 until their Opening Day 2.0 against the Kansas City Royals on July 30, 2021, a span of 670 days. Friday’s series opener against KC was preceded by emotional pre-game festivities. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo characterized the team’s return as his “best day in baseball.”

The home squad benefitted greatly from the energy of the Rogers Centre crowd, sweeping the fourth place Royals in the three-game weekend series. Toronto was carried to victory by a pitching staff reinforced by the acquisitions of José Berríos, Adam Cimber, Brad Hand and Joakim Soria. Berríos, the Jays’ highest-profile acquisition, threw a quality start in the Jays’ 5-1 victory on Sunday. The two-time All-Star allowed no runs on five hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in 6.0 IP.

Rookie Alek Manoah also had a quality start in a 4-0 shutout on Saturday, allowing just two hits over 7.0 IP.

The Blue Jays currently sit in fourth place in the American League East division with a record of 54-48. They are chasing one of the two American League Wild Card playoff spots along with division rivals Boston and New York, as well as the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.

The Jays’ return and a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign have Canadians looking forward to the end of the pandemic. However, I am concerned the celebration is premature. The Delta variant of the coronavirus has begun to wreak havoc on unvaccinated populations in the United States and COVID-19 cases have now begun to trend upward throughout Canada. As of July 24, about 56% of the country’s total population have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which leaves a generous share vulnerable to Delta. New restrictions and closures motivated by a fourth wave of cases in the fall will generate major public anger after a summer of relative freedom.

Featured Image: Outside the Rogers Centre before a Blue Jays baseball game in 2015 by GTS Productions /