The Jays have been told that they will not be permitted to play their 2020 home games in Toronto. What are their options?
With the recent announcement that the Blue Jays will be unable to play any 2020 games in Toronto, the team is looking for alternatives. What are their options?
The Jays’ recently upgraded spring training facility in Florida would ordinarily be a top option, but the recent spike in coronavirus cases in that state make it a high-risk option.
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Buffalo’s Sahlen Field (home of the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons) is not major-league ready: it would require upgrades to the clubhouse, lighting and overall infrastructure to be up to MLB standard. Such upgrades would take time, and could come at a substantial cost. Plus, the Jays players have indicated a clear preference to play in a real MLB ballpark if at all possible.
A different minor league stadium
Certain minor league teams have better ballparks than others, and all of the MiLB parks are currently unused. Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford (home of the AA Hartford Yard Goats) was voted best AA park in America two years in a row. Not an MLB park, but as close as a AA option could get.
An unused MLB park
There are some ex-MLB parks that are still in existence (Turner Field in Atlanta, or Globe Life Park in Texas, for example). It is possible that one of these could be revitalized for this season. However, it is not clear that these parks are close enough to MLB-ready to be viable near-term alternatives.
A full time-share (Tampa?)
It would be possible for the Jays to share a MLB facility with an existing team. This would not be without issues, however – the schedules of the host team and the Jays would have to be changed for overlapping dates, and having one team play in the afternoon, have everything disinfected, and then have another team play in the evening could be problematic.
A partial time-share (Pittsburgh?)
It might be possible to find a team whose schedule mirrors the Jays, so the Jays could use their stadium while they are on the road. MLBTR notes that Pittsburgh and Toronto overlap in this manner up to September 7. So, in theory, the Jays could share PNC Park up to September 7 and then find another option for the remaining 13 home games. That option could be another team (if one could be found whose schedule mirrored the Jays in September), or Dunedin (if Florida were in better shape by then), or Buffalo (giving a month to make upgrades). In any event, using PNC Park would buy time for the Jays to find a September solution.
Play games in other teams’ parks
The Jays could play their home games in the parks of their opponents. So, for example, the September 11-13 series against the Mets – which is designated a Jays “home series” – could be played in Citi Field. But the Jays would be treated as the home team, with all of the advantages (such as batting in the bottom of the inning) that come with that designation.
This option might make more sense in 2020 than in a conventional season, as the lack of fans make the “home field advantage” less important. And it is unlikely that these stadiums would be reserved for other uses while their home teams are on the road, given the current coronavirus protocols.
The bottom line
Any of the above options could be made to work, though some would be more attractive than others. I suspect that the final answer could be a combination of alternatives – such as playing August home games in Pittsburgh and September home games in the other team’s parks.