Major League Baseball is less than a month away from attempting to launch its 2020 season, and most teams have finalized where they will train and play their 2020 home games. The Toronto Blue Jays were among the clubs stuck in limbo.
On Thursday, the Blue Jays announced they have been granted access to travel back to Canada from Dunedin, Florida. Canada's COVID-19-inspired travel restrictions forced them to remain in Florida for the time being. Dunedin is the Blue Jays' spring training home and the location of their High-A affiliate.
Here are the details on the team's trip north:
Players and club personnel are currently completing intake screening in Dunedin, FL, where they will board private charter flights to Toronto this weekend. Only those that test negative for COVID-19 during the intake process will be permitted to join the traveling party to Canada.
The plan for hosting summer training camp in Toronto required government and public health approval at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. At its core, the plan necessitates players and club personnel to enter a closed environment at Rogers Centre, which is isolated from the general public. In collaboration with public health agencies, the Blue Jays have established comprehensive protocols to ensure the highest standards of health and safety are met prior to and during travel, and to create a cohort quarantine environment at Rogers Centre and the adjoining hotel. These protocols will be in place in addition to those outlined in the 2020 MLB Operations Manual.
The Blue Jays say no final decision has been made for the team's regular season home games, though they hope to play at Rogers Centre. "The team continues to pursue this option with the health and safety of the general public and the team at the forefront," the club said in a statement.
Last Friday the team filed a petition with the Canadian government to allow its players to cross the border in advance of training, but the Public Health Agency of Canada needed time to review MLB's restart plan before granting approval.
Canada's defense against the novel coronavirus isn't the only complication for the Blue Jays. Had the club been required to stay in Dunedin, they would have had to deal with the ongoing spread in Florida.
As per an agreement between the league and the union, players were supposed to report to camp ahead of July 1. The 60-game season is then supposed to begin on July 23 or 24, provided the spread of the novel coronavirus allows.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro confirmed they do not intend to have fans in the Rogers Centre stands this season.