With altered schedule for the 30 Major League Baseball teams calls for the teams to play only those teams in their regions – East plays East, Central plays Central, and West plays West – with no fans in the stands.
While this plan limits the amount of travel, it is proving to be problematic for one NLB team. The Toronto Blue Jays are the only professional baseball team who calls Canada home.
With the increase of COVID-19 cases reaching record numbers in the United States, the Canadian government has determined that it is not safe for the Blue Jays to play their home games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The move would require numerous border crossings by the Blue Jays and their opponents raising the risk of further spreading the virus across two nations.
Currently the U.S./Canadian. Border is closed to non-essential traffic until at least August 21.
With the NLB season set to begin on July 23, the Blue Jays currently do not have a home. The Blue Jays report that they are weighing their options but the two most likely locations each bring with them their own set of problems.
In a normal season, all of the MLB teams travel to either Florida or Arizona for spring training. The Blue Jays spend their spring training at Dunedin, Florida. One of their options, Dunedin is located in a state that is currently seeing record setting cases of the virus. The Blue Jays note that while a health risk, Dunedin offers the type of facilities the major league team needs to play the game in a safe environment.
Another option is Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York where the Blue Jays triple AAA team the Buffalo Bisons play their home games. Buffalo lies just across the Niagara River from Ontario, Canada which would be closer to home for the Blue Jays.
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz are supportive of the Buffalo option with Poloncarz saying, “let’s find a way to make them the ‘Buffalo Blue Jays’ this year.”
In order for the Blue Jays to play in. Buffalo, Sahlen Field would have to undergo a number of infrastructure upgrades. The locker room is too small and does not allow for proper social distancing. The field lights and training facilities would also need to be upgraded. Weight rooms,batting cages, and training rooms would also undergo an upgrade should the Blue Jays decide to play in Buffalo.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to open their season July 24 against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa. The Blue Jays home opener is set against the World Series Champion Washington Nationals on July 29.
When the National Hockey League decided to restart the season, they chose two hub cities for all of the teams to play in. Due to events the NHL chose Toronto as the eastern hub city and Edmonton as the west hub city, eliminating any health risks from American cities.