On Saturday afternoon, the Canadian Government made it official: There will be no Major League Baseball games played in Toronto, nor anywhere else in the country for that matter.
The decision was somewhat expected given coronavirus concerns and the rapid spread of the pandemic throughout the United States. Players would presumably be susceptible spreaders of the virus were teams to travel frequently, as is customary with major league teams. Accordingly, Canadian officials opted to take no chances. Rogers Centre will not host baseball games in 2020.
The announcement makes Buffalo the clear front runner to host Blue Jays' home games this season. Last week, team officials stated they were exploring the possibility of playing home games in Buffalo' minor league park, which seats 16,000.
The CBC confirmed the rumors, which had been circulating most of the week:
Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, told CBC News Network that the circumstances did not warrant a border-crossing exemption, particularly in light of the amount of cross-border travel needed and the risks that remained. The plan called for the Blue Jays and visiting teams to cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.
"Look, I'm a baseball fan," Mendicino said. "But we're not taking decisions as fans. We're taking decisions on the evidence of science that we receive and protecting the health and safety of Canadians."
Baseball is scheduled to begin the long-awaited season opener on July 29th. The Blue Jays open the season at the Washington Nationals. That means the Blue Jays' first home game could be only about two week away. Buffalo does seem like the natural choice given so few options at this late stage. Playing games reasonably close to Toronto would be a plus, and players wouldn't have to cross the Canada-United States border.
Interestingly. officials in Ottawa granted permission for the NHL to restart its season – 24 teams are set to arrive in two hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton, later this month. Reportedly, the NHL's proposal gained government approval because players will be isolated from the public, and the teams won't leave Canada until the season is completed.