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Blue Jays to play in Buffalo minor league park amid pandemic

After being prevented from playing in Toronto by Canadian health officials, the displaced Blue Jays will call Buffalo their home in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

The Blue Jays said in a statement Friday that the greater part of their home schedule will be played at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons. General manager Ross Atkins had previously said that if team could not find a major league park, Buffalo would be their most likely site for home games. 

Buffalo, a city of 250,000 people on the banks of Lake Erie, has been a minor league baseball town for over 100 years. But, despite the presence of the NFL’s Bills and NHL’s Sabres, the city has failed in its attempts to acquire its own major league team.   

Unfortunately for fans in Buffalo, games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season will be held without spectators. Locals will be able to watch nationally televised Blue Jays games, but it is unclear if the city’s local cable providers will carry the other games on the schedule. Team spokesmen did not immediately respond to the Daily Mail’s request for comment. 

The team looked for a major league stadium after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto but was unsuccessful in securing a site. The state of Pennsylvania nixed a deal to play in Pittsburgh.

Toronto opens the season at Tampa Bay on Friday. The team said the first scheduled home series, against the Washington Nationals on July 29 and 30, will take place on the road to accommodate necessary infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball playing standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.

The Blue Jays’ first game in Buffalo will be either on July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or on August 11 against the Miami Marlins.

‘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,’ Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said in a statement. ‘This process has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses.’ 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a letter and call this week to pick Buffalo.

‘As I’ve said all along, Buffalo is a home run for the Blue Jays 2020 MLB season. When I spoke with Commissioner Manfred earlier this week, I highlighted Sahlen Field’s top-notch facilities, its proximity to Toronto, and of course, Western New York’s world-class fan base. I have every confidence Major League Baseball can return to Western New York for the first time since the 19th century,’ Schumer said in a statement.

Buffalo briefly had a team, the Blues, in the now-defunct Federal League, which rivaled the American and National Leagues from 1913 until 1915. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had told reporters before the announcement that he spoke to Manfred on Friday morning.

‘If we can get Toronto playing here, I say great. We have the protocols in place, it will be done safely,’ Cuomo said. ‘I’d rather it happen here. It’s good for Buffalo.’

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that there had been talks about the state hosting the Blue Jays. It was not immediately clear if Maryland turned down the Blue Jays amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Baltimore. A spokesman for the Baltimore mayor’s office says the city ‘didn’t have any involvement’ on this.

Atkins had said this week that his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams.

The team had also considered playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

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