The Toronto Blue Jays will not be playing games in Toronto's Rogers Centre, or anywhere in Canada for that matter, in 2020. The Canadian government has denied the request for approval to play games this season on Canada.
The Canadian government released a statement Saturday:
"We have shared this news with the Blue Jays organization. We remain open to considering future restart plans for the post-season should the risk of virus transmission diminish. We wish the Blue Jays the best of luck as they start the regular season."
"Canada has been able to flatten the curve in large part because of the sacrifices Canadians have made. We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of the advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians."
The U.S.-Canadian border is closed for nonessential travel through Aug. 21 at the earliest and the Canadian government is mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone crossing the border. Obviously, this meant any MLB-related travel would need a special exemption. They didn't get it.
Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro released the following statement Saturday afternoon:
"From the onset of discussions with league and government officials, the safety of the broader community – our fans – and the team remained the priority of everyone involved, and with that, the club completely respects the federal government's decision. Though our team will not be playing home games at Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation. We cannot wait until the day comes that we can play in front of our fans again on Canadian soil."
The task for MLB and the Blue Jays now becomes where to find home for the 2020 season. Their spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida could have been an option, but COVID-19 cases are surging in Florida and it seems unlikely they'd want to deal with that.
The easiest option here appears to be Buffalo. It is where the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays plays and that's where their taxi squad has been during "summer camp."
Sahlen Field is a fine minor-league facility and at 16,600 seats, it has the largest capacity of any MiLB park. There won't be fans for this season -- at least most of it -- but it will still feel a lot closer to a big-league park than many other minor-league facilities.
Still, the clubhouses will pale in comparison to those in the bigs and there are concerns about the lights, plus seeing the Jays call some place other than Rogers Centre home will be weird. Then again, everything in 2020 has been weird, no?
Beyond Buffalo and Dunedin, the Blue Jays could seek to play games nearby in Rochester, New York (Twins' Triple-A affiliate) or Manchester, New Hampshire (Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate). A decision must be made soon so preparations can be made.
The Blue Jays will open the 2020 regular season with a five-game road trip. Opening Day is Friday, July 24, and the club is scheduled to play their first home game Wednesday, July 29, against the defending World Series champion Nationals.