July 24 (Reuters) - Major League Baseball’s nomadic Toronto Blue Jays finally found a home on Friday announcing they will play the greater part of their home schedule at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, the ballpark used by the club’s Triple A minor league affiliate.
The Blue Jays had been hoping to secure an exemption from travel quarantine rules that would allow them to play at the Rogers Centre.
But with COVID-19 cases on the rise in the United States, the federal government extended the closure of the Canada/U.S. border to non-essential travel until Aug. 21.
Under such restrictions it would be impossible for the Blue Jays to cross into the U.S. and return home and opposing teams to enter Canada without observing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“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,” said Mar Shapiro, Blue Jays president and CEO, in a statement.
“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 expect.”
The Blue Jays open their 60-game season in Tampa Bay against the Rays on Friday with their first scheduled “home series” in Washington from July 29-30 against the Nationals. Their first game at Sahlen Field is set for July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sahlen Field had originally not been considered a viable option because inadequate lighting and other facilities did not meet MLB standards.
But after a plan to share PNC Park with the Pittsburgh Pirates was rejected over health and safety concerns connected to an increase in COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania, the team was left with limited choices. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)