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Canadian pro teams prep for border challenges

We’ve been discussing the potential fate of the Toronto Blue Jays with border restrictions and homes away from home, but Canada’s other pro baseball teams are facing the same issue.

The Vancouver Canadians are moving from a short-season Northwest League to charmingly named High-A West league in 2021, which means an earlier starting date and a longer season. Great news for a baseball fan in Vancouver–if the team can play at historic Nat Bailey Stadium. Like all the pro Canadian teams (we’ll cover the indy leagues in a few), the team may be forced to begin life on the road, at least at the beginning of the season. In recent days Canadian officials have taken steps to tighten the border, so it’s hard to say when normalcy returns.

Now, the most logical move might have been to anticipate this very scenario existing and plan for it. But no one with the new MiLB apparently planned for this scenario, and now it’s too late to implement a backup plan, which could have included placing the team temporarily in Salem-Keizer. But with the Volcanoes moving forward with a four-team league, that doesn’t appear to be an option. And with the former MiLB ballparks in the High-A West league all either shifting to summer-collegiate or independent ball (like the other reject from MiLB, Boise), finding a suitable ballpark will be a challenge–unless you play the entire season on the road, either playing out of an existing MiLB ballpark or play the season on the road. From the Province:

“What would I tell a C’s fan about this season? I think we’re going to have border challenges,” said Andy Dunn…. “I’m not complaining. The facts are the facts. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens with the vaccines and how things come-and-go with COVID-19 over the next while. At some point, we’re going to have to make a decision about what we’re doing. Fortunately, that decision doesn’t have to be made today.”

The 2021 AA/A season launches May 4.

The same issue is facing the four Canadian teams in the independent American Association (the Winnipeg Goldeyes) and Frontier League — the Ottawa Titans, Quebec Capitales and Trois-Rivières Aigles. Sam Katz is an owner of both the Goldeyes and Titans, and while his organization has created COVID-19 mitigation plans, the wild card is the future of Canadian border restrictions:

“I’m ecstatic the schedule has been released. By the same token, we all know there are still some challenges out there. Hopefully, those will be rectified and we’ll be able to cross the (U.S.) border and vice-versa; of course that’s beyond our control, but it’s certainly our goal and our intention. We have a complete COVID-19 protocol plan in place for the Ottawa Titans at our ballpark, it’s ready to roll. Now we’re just going to wait and see.”

The 2021 Frontier League season launches May 27. The 2021 American Association season launches May 18.

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