The Blue Jays are making contingency plans in case the Canadian government prevents them from playing home games in Toronto at the start of the 2021 MLB season due to COVID-19 issues.
the Tampa Bay Times reported on Wednesday that the club consider their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., as a possible alternate venue; and that Jays and Dunedin officials have held preliminary discussions on hosting regular season games at TD Ballpark.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on January 12 that the Canada-U.S. Border would remain closed to non-essential travel at least on February 21, and on January 16, Ontario extended emergency measures in the province until February 19, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase.
“We would love to be able to open their season here,” Vince Gizzi, Dunedin director of parks and recreation, told The Times. “It would be just wonderful for our city, if they were prohibited from entering and leaving Canada, that they could play here.
The Jays were forced to play their entire 60-game schedule last year in the United States after Canada banned them from playing at the Rogers Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The team played their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, home of its Triple-A minor league affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, starting in mid-August. The Bisons’ 2020 season had already been canceled, making the stadium available to the Jays full-time.
The Bisons are expected to resume play there next spring, although the exact opening date is unclear as the MLB is still deciding when the 2021 minor league season begins.
Dunedin is also home to the Toronto affiliate in the Single-A Florida State League, but the Times speculated that any scheduling conflict could be resolved by having the minor league team play on one of the pitches. adjacent to the stadium inside the Jays complex. The parent club’s home opener is scheduled for April 8.
The Times noted that the MLB and MLB Players Association are expected to approve the relocation of parties outside of Toronto.
The NBA Raptors face a similar ban. They have moved their home games this season to Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., Home of the NHL Lightning. Dunedin is approximately 30 minutes west of Tampa on the Florida Gulf Coast.
The Maple Leafs play their home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, but are not expected to leave Canada in the regular season. The NHL has placed its seven Canadian teams into a single division for the 2021 season and has them played against each other, with games being played entirely in Canada.