With no official government approval for play at Rogers Centre and a general distrust of returning to Florida, the Toronto Blue Jays have reached out to Rich Baseball Operations about playing regular-season games at Sahlen Field.
The Blue Jays are currently training at Rogers Centre in a very controlled environment, with players confined to adjoining Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel when not working out at the ballpark. (Leaving the hotel leads to a reported $750,000 fine.) Not the worst place to be confined, to be sure.
Blue Jays officials were hoping to extend that stay into the regular season, heartened by the decision by federal and provincial officials to allow NHL play in Toronto and Edmonton. The Blue Jays are also proposing a limited quarantine, flying in and out of Pearson and shuttling players for both the Blue Jays and visiting teams directly to the Toronto Marriott. Canada still has a 14-day quarantine for foreign visitors entering the country, and this plan doesn’t meet those requirements. So far government officials have not been willing to waive those requirements for the Blue Jays.
Playing at Dunedin’s TD Ballpark was the team’s Plan B, but that plan was conceived before Florida became one of the hottest COVID-19 breakouts in the world. But leaving players to stay at their own residences begs the question of how effective social-distancing and COVID-19 mitigations could be.
So that leaves Sahlen Field as a Plan C. Home of the Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League), the top Blue Jays affiliate, it would be a familiar environment for many players. But there are plenty of drawbacks: limited clubhouse and training facilities when compared to Rogers Centre, an older lighting system that doesn’t meet MLB specs, and the lack of installed high-def cameras and production facilities at a time when the 2020 MLB season is basically a television production.
Which begs the question: given that there are so many MiLB ballparks sitting empty this summer, why focus in on Buffalo as a Plan C? The Blue Jays will be playing at a glorified TV studio with plenty of nearby hotel rooms and an easily accessible airport, so why not look at Charlotte or Indianapolis or Nashville? Not playing in Rogers Centre will basically make the Blue Jays a road team for 2020 no matter what, unless a shift back to Dunedin is in the cards.
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