Blue Jays will not play in Toronto during shortened regular season

Empty stadium at Rogers Centre. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Blue Jays via Twitter.)

The Toronto Blue Jays have been denied the ability to play the shortened 2020 regular season at home and are now in the process of finalizing the next best option.

MP Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced on Saturday that the Toronto Blue Jays would not be playing in Canada due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“Unlike preseason training, regular season games would require repeated cross-border travel of Blue Jays players and staff, as well as opponent teams into and out of Canada. Of particular concern, the Toronto Blue Jays would be required to play in locations where the risk of virus transmission remains high,” said Minister Mendicino in a statement. “Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety. As a result, Canada will not be issuing a National Interest Exemption for the MLB’s regular season at this time.”

Blue Jays players and staff, who recently returned to the Rogers Centre for preseason training, will now have to look at their options.

The Jays released a statement Saturday afternoon, thanking health and political officials for their consideration.

“The club completely respects the federal government’s decision,” said Mark Shapiro, president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays. “Though our team will not be playing games at the Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation.”

The Blue Jays are scheduled to kick off the season on July 24, with a visit to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Mendicino said the federal government will consider changing their stance on the matter should the Blue Jays qualify for the post-season.

“We remain open to considering future restart plans for the post-season should the risk of virus transmission diminish. We wish the Blue Jays the best of luck as they start the regular season,” said Mendicino. “We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of the advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians”.

The border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed to all non-essential traffic since late March due to COVID-19. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this week the restrictions along the border have been extended until August 21.