MLB Blue Jays, barred from Toronto, shuffle off to Buffalo


New York (AFP)

The Toronto Blue Jays will play their 2020 Major League Baseball home games at the Buffalo, New York, ballpark of their top development club after being booted from Canada.

The Blue Jays announced their plans Friday only hours before the opening game of a coronavirus delayed and shortened 2020 campaign at Tampa Bay.

After the Canadian government refused to allow the team to play out of its home ballpark due in part to visiting squads from US coronavirus hotspots, the Blue Jays sought to accept an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates to share their stadium for the season.

But Pennsylvania state officials said no to having extra risks from more teams in the city, and scheduling issues thwarted a bid to share the Baltimore Orioles' home park.

With the Blue Jays' Florida training facility ruled out because the area is at the epicenter of US COVID-19 current cases, Buffalo's Sahlen Field became the best option for the team.

The Buffalo Bisons season, like those of all minor-league US baseball clubs, was wiped out by the pandemic, leaving the ballpark empty.

And while lighting standards and other areas must be upgraded to meet MLB standards for contests and coronavirus safety, it proved the Blue Jays' most workable options.

"We are extremely grateful to have a home in Buffalo this season, thanks to the openness, creativity, and partnership of the Buffalo Bisons, Major League Baseball, and Blue Jays staff, who have worked tirelessly to prepare us for games at Sahlen Field," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said.

"This process has no doubt tested our team's resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses -- we are determined to take the field on opening day today, and for the coming months, with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect."

That won't be easy after weeks of uncertainty and a couple of extra road games, even though there will be no spectators in attendance at any contests at any venue.

The Blue Jays were set to play their first home games of a season cut from 162 to 60 games per club on July 29-30 against the reigning World Series champion Washington Nationals.

Instead, they play the games in Washington after an originally planned two-game road swing in the US capital.

That means the Blue Jays will play their first "home" game in Buffalo on July 31 against Philadelphia or on August 11 against Miami, depending on how fast the stadium can be upgraded to meet MLB standards.