The Toronto Blue Jays have finally found a solution in their home ballpark search for the 2020 MLB season. The Blue Jays announced Friday that the club will play their 2020 home games at Sahlen Field, their Triple-A affiliate ballpark in Buffalo, New York during the 60-game campaign.
After the Blue Jays were denied approval to play at their home ballpark, Rogers Centre, in Toronto, due to concerns over teams crossing the border amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they explored other options like splitting games with the Orioles and Pirates, at Camden Yards and PNC Park, respectively. The other option the Blue Jays explored was playing their home games at the club's spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida. But with Florida's ongoing COVID-19 surge, the spring training site was ruled out.
The Blue Jays opened their 2020 campaign Friday at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. According to Blue Jays broadcaster Hazel May, the club will play their home opener in Buffalo at Sahlen Field on Aug. 11 against the Marlins. The team will play two "home" series on the road while the necessary upgrades are made to the ballpark:
- July 29-30 vs. Nationals (will be played at Nationals Park)
- July 31-Aug. 2 vs. Phillies (will be played at Citizens Bank Park)
In the league's new geographically based schedule for this season, teams will not venture outside their "regions" in an effort to contain extra exposure to COVID-19. With the Blue Jays playing their 2020 home games in Buffalo, it will work out fairly well in respect to travel for their AL East and NL East opponents.
Buffalo was one of the original options when the Blue Jays first encountered issues with playing at Rogers Centre, but players expressed their interest in wanting to play at a major-league level ballpark. Sahlen Field will require some reconfiguration of the clubhouse, workout facility and the ballpark lights, to bring the stadium up to par with an MLB ballpark. Some other concerns that would need to be addressed: the bullpen location being in playable foul territory as well as making sure there is enough space for social distancing among players and coaches. But, the Blue Jays organization figure this to be an easier option than to continue awaiting government approval for sharing a MLB ballpark.
Sahlen Field is located in downtown Buffalo, with dimensions of 325 feet to left field, 404 feet to center field and 325 feet to right field. The home run fence is 12 feet high in left field and eight feet tall in left-center and right field. The ballpark was designed by H.O.K Architects (Kansas City), the group who also built Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Buffalo Bisons had their minor-league season canceled on July 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.