Major League Baseball suspended its operations in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB has been working with the MLBPA to come up with a plan to resume play. MLB hopes that they can get as many teams to play in their home cities as possible. Unfortunately for the Toronto Blue Jays, they might have to find an alternate home if border restrictions aren’t eased before the start of the season.
The rules on Canada/United States border crossings will evolve based on how effectively COVID-19 is contained by July when Major League Baseball hopes to resume play in empty stadiums. Still, the only MLB team outside of the United States is developing different scenarios about where they would play their home games. These scenarios include playing games both inside and outside of Toronto.
At this point, playing home games at Rogers Center is not an option as long as the emergency order instituted on March 24th under the Quarantine Act remains. This Act instructs travellers arriving in Canada to undergo screening by border services or quarantine officer. If the individual has no symptoms of COVID-19, the individual must undergo 14 days on self-isolation. Travellers with symptoms must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The Blue Jays must follow the same rules as all the other Canadians, which would force them to find a new home stadium for the 2020 season under these circumstances. The most realistic option would be to play in their Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Florida. This facility was set to be the Blue Jays’ home in 1995 when owners planned to open the season with replacement players, amidst the ongoing strike.
On Tuesday, May 5th, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has had talks with the Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro about where the Blue Jays would play their home games when the season starts. He mentioned preliminary discussions took place and he was open to “possibly being in a position to play some games, whether it’s here or elsewhere” said Tory.
On May 3rd, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said NHL players arriving in Canada from a foreign country “will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner.” If MLB players were to enter the country from elsewhere, they would have to follow these same policies, and that’s where the Blue Jays have their issue.
The Blue Jays certainly don’t have it easy right now being the only Canadian team in the Majors.
Will the other 29 teams be able to play at their stadiums? Probably, but there is no definite answer. The remaining 29 teams are spread-out in 18 different states across the United States. Each state has different regulations and opinions as some governors are eager to reopen the economy and resume sports while others feel we should be more cautious.
Due to this, MLB has discussed having a season in neutral-sites. Health officials like this plan because they believe the fewer cities the MLB plays in, the higher the chances of successfully staging a season without interruption.
Another plan Major League Baseball proposed was to stage a shortened season in Arizona and Florida. All 30 teams would play their games in Spring Training facilities. This plan would reduce travel significantly.
Along with issues due to traveling restrictions, MLB needs to resolve other issues such as how training will look, how many games will be played this season and how realistic the environments are in each market at the forefront. MLB will also have to ensure its plan abides by the health protocols in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of border restrictions, the Blue jays would hold their Spring Training camp in Dunedin.
When the Canada/United States border does reopen, it will be because cases have been going down and the countries are slowly returning to normal. The reopening of the border will likely result in wide-scale deployments of rapid-result diagnostic tests that could eliminate the need for 14 days of self-isolation upon arriving in Canada.
This would allow the Blue Jays to begin their season at home. However, the odds of the Canada/United States border reopening before the MLB season starts seems unlikely at the moment because the number of cases in both Canada and the United States is continuing to go up.
Safety remains the number one priority for Major League Baseball, and the season will not be played if it deemed unsafe. To ensure the return of baseball is safe, the MLB is closely monitoring how the Korean Baseball Organization’s launch plays out while closely tracking if gradual re-openings of some states will lead to another wave of COVID-19 infections.
Being MLB’s only team located north of the border proved to be a disadvantage amidst this pandemic. When the season resumes, the Blue Jays will most likely have to play their games in Dunedin, due to border restrictions.