'Buffalo Era' of Blue Jays baseball begins on Tuesday

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (Mike Baggerman - WBEN) - Even after the Toronto Blue Jays leave Buffalo, Sahlen Field will reap the benefits of some of the upgrades to the stadium.

As part of the urgent stadium upgrades to ensure the ballpark met the standards of a Major League franchise, the Blue Jays upgraded all of the infield and several feet into the outfield.

Marnie Starkman, the Blue Jays' Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Operations, said that the infield upgrades and the new bulbs in the stadium's light fixtures will both be permanent at the stadium. The infield was upgraded after a visit by the Blue Jays' head groundskeeper.

"We felt better replacing it," Starkman said. "A lot of it was the lip...between the infield and the grass was just too significant. In speaking to both the [Pittsburgh] Pirates and [Boston] Red Sox, who replaced their infield, we just made the decision that it was the best decision."

Mike Buczkowski of Rich Baseball said parts of the outfield were upgraded because that is where the tarp drains in the event of rain.

"...Not that we're going to get any rain while they're here," he said. "But if we do, it will help drain the field quicker."

Some of the temporary upgrades will be seen on the field, including the extended dugouts, but most are behind the scenes. The batting cage at the stadium is now the site of the Blue Jays' clubhouse and the players will take their practice swings on the main concourse of the stadium.

"The graphics and amount of amenities that the Blue Jays thought about for these players is impressive," Buczkowski said. "I said to people, 'If you closed your eyes and walked in and opened them, you might think you're at the Rogers Centre.' That's the length they've gone to make the players feel at home and make Buffalo their home for the remainder of the season. Our hope is for the postseason as well."

It is unknown exactly how much the Blue Jays spent to upgrade the stadium, though it was described as "significant". The City of Buffalo spent nearly $759,000 to upgrade netting and for a new freight elevator, though that money was earmarked previously and is not new money being spent.

After the season, some changes such as the carpeting and paint job may remain, though the batting cage will need to return to the clubhouse area. Specifics about what stays and what goes is still to-be-determined.

 

No fans around the stadium:

Fans are not allowed at any Major League Baseball game this season due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said there will be officers at the stadium on game days to ensure fans do not try to gather in attempts to watch the game.

"There has been fencing and other screening that went on around the stadium," Rinaldo said. "There will be no real place to view the game outside the stadium. The Blue Jays have went to extensive lengths to ensure that. There will be no permitted tailgating in any of the surrounding lots. We ask the citizens and community to be good hosts and watch the games on TV and help to ensure the games go off without a hitch."

That may not stop some people from wanting to view the game. Rinaldo again assured that there was double-fencing put up to ensure the games can't be viewed from the outside.

"I would just ask people not to really waste time coming down hoping the Bisons or Blue Jays miss something," he said.

Ballplayers for the Blue Jays and visiting teams will be quarantined in their hotels unless they have to be at the stadium for a game or a meeting. Rinaldo said there will be temporary traffic closures around the ballpark when the teams come and go from the stadium. There will be no restrictions to traffic during games.