Blue Jays could begin 2021 season in Florida if COVID travel restrictions persist

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By RADIO.COM

Fresh off last year’s playoff appearance, Jays fans must be champing at the bit to see George Springer in his new Toronto threads. Unfortunately, due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19, Springer’s much-anticipated Rogers Centre debut may have to wait. Toronto’s home opener against the Angels is tentatively scheduled for April 8th, though with COVID cases on the rise (Ontario has invoked an emergency stay-at-home order), the Blue Jays would need permission from both local and federal authorities to play in Canada.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, if the virus prevents Toronto from returning to its home north of the border, the Blue Jays would likely take up residence at the team’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida. Toronto shacked up in Buffalo under similar circumstances last summer, though that option was only available to the Jays because the minor league season was called off amid COVID. With the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons returning to play in 2021, Sahlen Field won’t be able to host both teams at once. Staging games in Dunedin is more practical anyway, since the team’s equipment will already be there.

In that scenario, Toronto would share a home stadium with the Dunedin Blue Jays, though the Low-A Florida State League isn’t expected to begin its season until at least May. Should any overlap take place, the Blue Jays have already thought of several workarounds including potentially having Dunedin play its home games during the day or at another nearby facility. Visiting clubs would be allowed access to batting cages and weight rooms available at TD Ballpark, which has been the Blue Jays’ home for Grapefruit League games since 1990.

The Jays are still hoping to get the green light to play at Rogers Centre, but if all else fails, Dunedin would welcome the team with open arms. “It would just be wonderful for our city,” said Dunedin Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi. “We’d be excited to see that happen, especially in our newly renovated stadium.”

The Blue Jays’ NBA counterpart, the Toronto Raptors, have also set up shop in Florida, making Tampa their home for the 2020-21 season.

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