Blue Jays to play in Buffalo minor league park amid pandemic
By ROB GILLIES Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — The displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play in Buffalo, New York, this year amid the pandemic.
The Blue Jays said in a statement Friday that the greater part of their home schedule will be played 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 their most likely site for home games.
The team looked for a major league stadium after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto but was unsuccessful in securing a site. The state of Pennsylvania nixed a deal to play in Pittsburgh with COVID-19 cases on the rise there.
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 necessary infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball playing standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.
The Blue Jays’ first game in Buffalo will be either on July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or on Aug. 11 against the Miami Marlins.
Blue Jays players had made it clear to the front office they wanted to play in a major league park and Buffalo was described as a worst case option.
“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 in a statement. “This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses.”
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. It was not immediately clear if Maryland turned down the Blue Jays amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Baltimore. A spokesman for the Baltimore mayor’s office says the city “didn’t have any involvement” on this.
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.
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.