- The Toronto Blue Jays will return home to the Rogers Centre beginning on June 30, 2021.
- MLS soccer sides Toronto FC and CF Montreal were granted permission to return home earlier this week.
- There will be significant health and safety protocols in place for the Blue Jays and visiting teams.
The Toronto Blue Jays can finally say good bye to Buffalo. That has been their primary home field (with a short stint in Dunedin, Florida) since September 29, 2019–the last time they played at the Rogers Centre. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life rough for players and teams at all levels but none more so than the Blue Jays. As the only Canadian team in Major League Baseball they weren’t able to have an ‘all Canadian’ division like the NHL had this year. Then there was the matter of tough border restrictions between the US and Canada. Even if Toronto could convince government officials to let them play at home, allowing teams to cross the border from the lower 48 has been a much tougher sell.
For the Blue Jays, the return to Toronto is a long time coming. They were allowed to train in Toronto in July 2020 before the shortened MLB season but a request to play games at home was denied. The Jays played on the road for two weeks before taking up temporary residence in Buffalo–home of their Triple-A affiliate. This season, they began play in their traditional Florida spring training home of Dunedin, Florida before heading back to Buffalo. In the meantime, Canada struggled early with vaccine distribution which resulted in significant travel issues for the NHL. The result–when the Montreal Canadiens hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals it was the first time all season that a US team had played North of the Border.
Much has changed since then. For one thing, Canada has really pulled it together with their vaccine efforts. 44,293,659 doses have been administered in Canada resulting in 70% of the population now having at least one dose and 48% fully vaccinated. That 70% rate is now one of the best in the world. The 48% fully vaccinated percentage is essentially the same as the United States. Major League Baseball has also done an excellent job with their vaccination efforts–reportedly 85% of MLB players have been vaccinated.
There are still some pretty significant stipulations to guarantee the health and safety of the public. Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino outlined these in a statement:
“The plan contains significant measures to ensure the safety of players, personnel and the public. This begins with pre and post-arrival testing of everyone, and additional testing four times a week for unvaccinated individuals. It also includes significant limitations on unvaccinated individuals, who will have to have to undergo a modified quarantine, not be permitted to go anywhere but the hotel and stadium and have no interaction with the general public.”
In addition, each MLB team will have a ‘designated compliance officer’. Even with all of the restrictions and stipulations, the Blue Jays are thrilled to be returning to Toronto as this statement indicates:
“First and foremost, the Blue Jays wish to thank Canadians for their unprecedented public health efforts and support for the team. Without you, Blue Jays baseball would not be coming home this summer.”
“In addition, the organization wishes to acknowledge Blue Jays staff and players for their tireless efforts and dedication during a franchise-defining chapter of team history, and whose resilience never wavered through immense challenges and times of uncertainty. Partnership was required across all three levels of government and public health to bring the Blue Jays back to Rogers Centre.”
As late as Thursday, it was not clear when the Blue Jays would be approved to return to their home park. After MLS soccer sides Toronto FC and CF Montreal were given permission to host US teams with a limited number of fans in the stadium it became a matter of time before the Blue Jays’ approval would come through. Additional details about the return of the Blue Jays will be forthcoming early in the week.