With the Canadian federal government shutting down a plan to have the Blue Jays play under quarantine circumstances in Rogers Centre, the next question for management is where to play the scheduled 30 games, with the likeliest destinations being TD Ballpark, the team’s spring home in Dunedin, FL, or Sahlen Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons. There are pluses and minuses to both: Many players have condos and apartments in Dunedin, but skyrocketing COVID-19 test rates and positive both in Florida and the greater Tampa Bay area would seemingly pose a huge issue for both home and visiting players.
There would be less danger of COVID-19 infections in Buffalo, where the team would be confined to local hotels and spend more time in what many would call a limited quarantine. It’s not an ideal situation, either, mostly related to the condition of Sahlen Field–a fine Triple-A ballpark, but one that needs some upgrades, per the Blue Jays, to act as the glorified broadcast studio we are seeing ballparks used as this season:
[Team president Mark] Shapiro readily admitted there is no perfect scenario left to explore. Dunedin is the only place ready to welcome the Jays without requiring a slew of renovations before opening the doors. The problem is that Florida has been decimated by the coronavirus, with daily averages of positive tests frequently exceeding 10,000.
Buffalo is a safer alternative because the number of COVID-19 cases is much lower there. The ballpark itself, though, does not meet MLB standards. New lights would have to be installed at Sahlen Field, home of the triple-A Bisons, to “supplement” the ones already in place. A video replay booth would have to be constructed and spacing within the stadium would have to be reimagined to meet MLB’s health and safety protocols for social distancing.
Some issues likely wouldn’t be resolved at all, such as the bullpens down the lines in foul territory instead of behind a wall. Questions also remain about whether there’s enough infrastructure in place to properly broadcast games. There are a lot of areas to address and not a lot of time to do it.
We’ve noted the issues with the lighting and broadcast-production standards before, but just want to emphasize here the Blue Jays and MLB are citing those shortcomings as well.
If the Blue Jays do indeed play the 2020 season at Sahlen Field, look for Rochester’s Frontier Field be pressed into service as the alternative training facility.
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