Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Team president Mark Shapiro issued a statement on the move:
“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. This has no doubt tested our team’s resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses—we are determined to take the field on Opening Day today, and for the coming months, with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect.”
New York Gov. Cuomo told reporters Friday he had spoken with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about the idea and had his “fingers crossed” that the arrangement would soon be finalized.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Sahlen Field—the home field of the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons—requires some work to meet MLB specifications:
The Blue Jays had to find a new home stadium after the Canadian government ruled they couldn’t play at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The concern centered on visiting teams arriving from the United States, which has experienced a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the summer.
The franchise initially looked at PNC Park in Pittsburgh but met resistance from Pennsylvania state officials:
Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore was the next option.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan confirmed to the Associated Press’ Rob Gillies and Brian Witte that negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles about the plan were ongoing. The Blue Jays balked at the fact they couldn’t begin playing at Camden Yards until September, per ESPN’s Marly Rivera.
This isn’t the first time officials from Toronto and Buffalo have worked together for sporting reasons. The NFL’s Buffalo Bills played a handful of games at Rogers Centre in effort to widen their reach north of the border. The series was scrapped in 2014 and largely considered to be a disappointment.
Moving the Blue Jays to Buffalo, which is about a two-hour drive from Toronto, makes sense given the circumstances.
MLB restructured each team’s schedule to cut down on travel as much as possible. The Jays have 40 games against teams within their division and 20 games against teams from the National League East.
As Heyman noted, playing MLB games in a minor league stadium presents a few logistical problems, but Buffalo represented the most obvious central hub with Toronto off the table.