98.5 The Sports Hub staff report
Less than a week away from the start of the 2020 MLB season, the Toronto Blue Jays will have to scramble for a new home, as the Canadian government has informed the team that they will not be allowed to play home games in Toronto this season.
This decision, which came from the federal government, came in the wake of the Blue Jays getting the go-ahead from both city and provincial governments ahead of the 2020 season, which is scheduled to start next week. But Immigration Minister, Marco Mendicino, wasn’t on board with the Blue Jays’ frequent travel to the United States, where COVID-19 is thriving, and confirmed the federal government’s decision to boot the Jays on Saturday.
“There were serious risks if we proceeded with the regular-season proposal of the MLB and the Jays and therefore we concluded it was not in the national interest,” said Mendicino. “I get that some people will disappointed but this decision can’t be taken as a fan. It is taken on behalf of the health and safety of Canadians.”
(It probably didn’t help that the Jays were slated to begin their season in Tampa Bay of all places.)
So now what?
The most realistic option for the Jays is a move to the team’s spring training facilities in Dunedin, Fla. or to Buffalo, N.Y., where the team’s Triple-A affiliate typically plays.
Neither option seems like a particularly appealing one for the Jays.
In Florida, you have the obvious public safety issues, as cases in the Sunshine State have exploded in recent weeks. In Buffalo, meanwhile, you’re talking about setting up shop in minor-league facilities. Facilities that would be in need of some significant upgrades, with issues ranging from stadium lighting to clubhouse space and batting cage availability, according to the Jays.
“Dunedin is the only one that is 100 percent seamless right now and ready to go. That from a player-health standpoint has some challenges,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said. “Buffalo is certainly one that we’ve spent an increasing amount of time on in the past few weeks. That is not done. There are some infrastructure and player-facility challenges to get that up to major league standards. And then we have other alternatives that are real that we continue to work through that may be better for us.”
And though this move may have created an additional headache for the Blue Jays, it’s a decision that Shapiro “respects” given Canada’s efforts to contain COVID-19.
“Without any hesitation we respect the decision,” said Shapiro. “It’s not hard to think about how well managed and well led the virus has been throughout Toronto and Canada by public health and political leaders.”
The 2020 MLB season will begin on July 23.