The final time the Blue Jays performed a sport at Rogers Centre, their stadium in downtown Toronto, was Sept. 29, 2019. Since then, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic led to the closing of the Canadian border, the nation’s solely big-league baseball staff has been pressured to discover makeshift regular-season houses in Dunedin, Fla., its spring coaching web site, and in Buffalo, the place it displaced the franchise’s high minor league staff.
Finally, after almost two years away, the Blue Jays are coming dwelling.
On Friday, the staff introduced that it could be again in Toronto starting July 30, with a three-game collection in opposition to the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays mentioned that the Canadian authorities had granted them a “national interest exemption,” which permits Major League Baseball video games to be performed at Rogers Centre “with robust health and safety protocols in place.”
Marco Mendicino, the Canadian immigration minister, mentioned in a press release posted on-line that the Blue Jays got the exemption after “a careful review” by public well being officers “at every level of government.”
“The plan contains significant measures to ensure the safety of the players, personnel and the public,” he added later. “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 undergo a modified quarantine, not be permitted to go anywhere but the hotel and stadium and have no interaction with the general public.”
Mendicino mentioned there could be compliance officers and that if anybody linked with a staff breached the foundations, that individual’s exemptions would revoked and the individual might also be topic to fines or prosecution underneath the nation’s Quarantine Act.
The Blue Jays, who entered Friday with a 45-42 report and have been in third place within the American League East, had been lobbying since final yr to return to Canada. They held a preseason camp at Rogers Centre final summer time, however their request to host regular-season video games there was rejected by authorities officers due to fears that touring groups might unfold the virus.
During the pandemic-shortened, 60-game 2020 season, the Blue Jays performed their dwelling video games in Buffalo at Sahlen Field, the headquarters of their Class AAA affiliate; the stadium’s capability is thrice smaller than 49,000-seat Rogers Centre. With a younger and proficient roster, the Blue Jays ended a four-season playoff drought.
This yr, the Blue Jays started the season by staying in Dunedin, their spring coaching dwelling, to begin the common season. On June 1, they shifted once more to Buffalo, the place they upgraded the stadium for major-league wants.
The Blue Jays are scheduled for 37 dwelling video games from July 30 to the tip of the common season.
Last month, Canada granted border journey exemptions for the ultimate two rounds of the N.H.L. playoffs. Although the U.S.-Canada border stays closed for nonessential journey, M.L.S. groups from Toronto and Montreal returned dwelling final week after federal authorities not too long ago loosened pandemic border restrictions. They allowed sure totally vaccinated vacationers, together with international skilled athletes with work permits, to enter with out a 14-day quarantine so long as they complied with testing earlier than and after arrival.
The quarantine guidelines, although, nonetheless utilized to vacationers who weren’t totally vaccinated. And not all M.L.B. gamers and workers members are vaccinated. As of late June, M.L.B. and the gamers’ union mentioned that 85 p.c of individuals in key classes of gamers and workers had been vaccinated. But even then, groups with excessive vaccination charges have handled virus points, together with the Yankees, who’re confronting their second severe outbreak regardless of the staff’s having reached the 85 p.c threshold.
“First and foremost, the Blue Jays wish to thank Canadians for their unprecedented public health efforts and support for the team,” the staff mentioned in a press release. “Without you, Blue Jays baseball would not be coming home this summer.”
On July 1, which is Canada Day, Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo mentioned he longed for the staff’s dwelling up north.
“Buffalo has been great to us, don’t get me wrong,” he informed reporters. “But today is one of those days where, man, I wish we were in Toronto.” Soon, they are going to be.