The Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball franchise has confirmed that it will play the majority of its 2020 home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York after it was refused permission to play at Rogers Centre.
Earlier this month, the Canadian government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at its regular home venue amid concerns over the COVID-19 situation in the US, with the team needing to travel frequently between the two countries to play games.
MLB needed to secure an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days, with the border remaining closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21.
The Canadian government’s decision left the Blue Jays with a tight timeframe to decide on its new home and on Friday the team announced that it had finalised plans to play at Sahlen Field, the home of its Triple-A affiliate the Buffalo Bisons.
The Blue Jays’ first home series against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday will take place on the road to accommodate necessary infrastructure upgrades at Sahlen Field.
The Blue Jays turned to Sahlen Field after the US state of Pennsylvania rejected the team’s plans to play at PNC Park, home of MLB rival the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The team will either host its first home game in Buffalo against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 31, or against the Miami Marlins on August 11.
Mark Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Blue Jays, said: “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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, fellow MLB team the Texas Rangers has played its first game at Globe Life Field, its new 40,000-seat stadium which has been built next to its previous home, Globe Life Park.
The Rangers inaugurated the stadium with a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rockies, but no fans were in attendance amid ongoing restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
The pandemic forced the Rangers to postpone the opening of Globe Life Field, which had been due to host a Chris Stapleton concert back in March.