TORONTO (AP) — The displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play in a minor league park in Buffalo, New York, this year after being turned down by the Canadian government and blocked to play in Pittsburgh by the state of Pennsylvania.
The Blue Jays will play “home games” at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons. General manager Ross Atkins had previously said that if team could not find a major league park, Buffalo would be the most likely site for home games.READ MORE: COVID In Maryland: 985 New Cases, Hospitalizations Slightly Down Monday
The team sought a major league stadium after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto but was unsuccessful. Pennsylvania health officials then rejected a deal to play in Pittsburgh because of rising COVID-19 cases there.
The team also held talks with the Baltimore Orioles about Camden Yards, but the Blue Jays didn’t want to wait to see if Maryland officials would say no with season starting Friday.
“Baltimore never got to a situation to where we were denied,” Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said Friday. ”At some point continuing to explore and look at an option like Baltimore was not going to be a risk we could take. That risk of being turned down certainly existed. And so we obviously had to make a decision knowing we had a very good alternative, albeit not a major league one. but one we felt could get close to a major league one.”
Toronto opens the season at Tampa Bay on Friday. The team said the first scheduled home series, against the Washington Nationals on July 29 and 30, will take place on the road to accommodate infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.
The Blue Jays’ first game in Buffalo will be either July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or Aug. 11 against the Miami Marlins.
The team had also considered playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.
Health officials in Canada and Pennsylvania, however, were worried about frequent travel throughout the U.S., one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.
Atkins had said this week that his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams.
Slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. expects the Buffalo’s park to favor pitchers because it is a larger field than the Rogers Centre in Toronto.READ MORE: Family Of 21-Year-Old Haley Herron Searching For Answers After Deadly, Possible Road Rage Incident Over Easter Weekend
“It’s going to be different because of the way it is in Toronto compared to Buffalo,” Guerrero said through a translator. “There are no fans anyway. We’re just going to go play baseball.”
Blue Jays players had made it clear to the front office they wanted to play in a major league park. Outfielder Randal Grichuk Buffalo had described Buffalo as a “worst case.”
“This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said “substantial” new construction will be required to upgrade Sahlen Field. The locker needs to be expanded so that social distancing can be practiced. The lights need be upgraded as well. The team will be incurring the majority if not all of the costs, he said.
The team has also reached out to the Buffalo Sabres about using some of its facilities.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a letter and call this week to pick Buffalo.
“I’ve always been a Bisons and Bills fan so I guess now I’ll be a Blue Jays fan, at least this year,” Schumer said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It seemed so logical for the Blue Jays to go to Buffalo for geographic and market reasons. If they want to expand their market it’s very good to be in western New York. It’s a good facility. It’s a major league-caliber playing surface.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had told reporters before the announcement that he spoke to Manfred on Friday morning.
“If we can get Toronto playing here, I say great. We have the protocols in place, it will be done safely,” Cuomo said. “I’d rather it happen here. It’s good for Buffalo.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledged in an interview with the AP on Thursday that there had been talks about the state hosting the Blue Jays. A spokesman for the Baltimore mayor’s office says the city “didn’t have any involvement” on the Blue Jays Buffalo decision.MORE NEWS: Baltimore County Group To Recommend Affordable Housing Improvements
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