Tick tock, the Toronto Blue Jays are without a home field and the MLB season starts on Thursday. The Blue Jays won’t play home games in Toronto, Ontario after the Canadian government denied the MLB permission to restart in Toronto. PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Sahlen Field in Buffalo are the front runners to host the Blue Jays this upcoming season.
Health and immigration officials in Canada are iffy on travel back and forth between Toronto and America, where the coronavirus outbreak ravishes.
“In Canada you’ve seen us flatten the curve,” said Mario Mendicino, Immigration Minister. “You’ve seen that cases have decreased significantly and that is largely attributable to the sacrifices Canadians have made. We can ill afford a step back.”
BLUE JAYS POTENTIAL HOMES?
Buffalo, New York
“There were serious risks if we proceeded with the regular-season proposal of the MLB and the Jays, and therefore we concluded it was not in the national interest,” added Mendicino.
Toronto city officials approved of the MLB restart. Ontario province health officials also signed off on a restart for the Blue Jays. The Canadian federal government took a more cautious route, however.
The Canadian government approved the NHL restart in two hub cities — Edmonton and Toronto — for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL created a Secure Zone with zero travel in which the western teams play in Edmonton and the eastern teams play in Toronto. The Stanley Cup Finals will be the only time a team will travel to another city to play another team.
The NBA defending champion Toronto Raptors will be playing all of their restart games in the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Buffalo Blue Jays
In the MLB restart, teams will play only 60 games against their division and their AL/NL counterpart’s division. In the Toronto Blue Jays’ case, they would face teams in the AL East and the NL East, including opponents from Boston, New York City, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Miami.
The Blue Jays play their spring training games in Dunedin, Florida. During the earliest stages of the pandemic, the MLB considered playing the season at spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida.
Florida’s surging number of coronavirus cases drew red flags for the Blue Jays. Team President Mark Shapiro quickly pivoted to other cities as a healthier alternative to Florida.
Officials in Buffalo were happy to host the pro team. They always wanted a pro ball team in Western New York, but had to settle on a AAA squad, the Buffalo Bisons. Without any minor league baseball in 2020, Sahlen Field sits empty.
“Buffalo is certainly one that we’ve spent an increasing amount of time on in the past few weeks, but that is not done,” said Shapiro. “There are some infrastructure and player-facility challenges to get that up to major league standards. And then we have other alternatives that are real that we continue to work through that may be better for us.”
Buffalo also has a deep connection to baseball. “The Natural”, starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, filmed on location in Buffalo. The crew used old War Memorial as the home field for the New York Knights, while All-High Stadium filed in as Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh Blue Jays
With players insisting on a big-league park, all signs point to the Jays flying to PNC Ballpark in Pittsburgh unless the MLB can come up with a quick alternative, like Baseball Island or a similar tactic employed by UFC’s Dana White.
If they land in Pittsburgh, the Jays would share the field with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They would play games when the Pirates are out of town, or play at noon on nights with a scheduled Pirates home game. The two teams only have a schedule conflict seven times.
The Pirates’ general manager, Ben Cherington, previously worked with the Blue Jays. He has a strong relationship with Mark Shapiro, the Blue Jays’ CEO and President.
The Blue Jays start their season on the road on July 24. They have less than 10 days before their first official home game on July 29.
Pittsburgh is located 317 miles south of Toronto, while Buffalo sits less than 100 miles away across Lake Ontario.