Major League Baseball is seeking to have the Toronto Blue Jays play in their home market as part of the league’s planned return to play amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and have submitted a plan to the Canadian government.
The issue remains highly delicate as Covid-19 cases are surging across much of the United States, and anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must quarantine for 14 days. The US-Canada border is also closed to nonessential travel until at least July 21.
The National Hockey League recently gained exemptions that allow that league to consider three Canadian markets as potential “hub cities” in its return-to-play plan.
MLB is now seeking similar cooperation from the Canadian government.
“The resumption of activities in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s plan to mitigate the importation and spread of Covid-19,” said Anna Maddison, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, to the Associated Press. “The Public Health Agency of Canada has received, and is currently assessing, a restart plan from Major League Baseball.”
Unlike many other major US team sports operating under a quarantined single-site or dual-site model, MLB intends to restart play on either July 23 or July 24 in each of its 30 local markets. A revised 60-game regular season schedule now being finalized will focus strictly on regional-based play to lessen travel demands.
The Blue Jays playing games at their Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Florida, is likely not a workable option given several players and staff members working at that facility have tested positive for the virus, according to industry sources. Similar issues at other training complexes in Florida have prompted MLB to have teams prepare for the 2020 season restart at their home ballparks.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, meanwhile, said he intends to have attending fans back at Minute Maid Park to help mitigate losses suffered by loss of games from Covid-19.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott earlier this month said venue operators could allow up to 50 per cent of their capacity in for events. But as Covid-19 cases have surged since then, Abbott has moved more responsibility for health governance to local officials, and has granted mayors and county judges greater power to restrict outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
That in turn, will place the decision on whether the Astros will be able to have attending fans largely in the hands of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“That’s the plan…The intent at some point is to get fans into the ballpark. We won’t really know until Opening Day. We definitely will be talking to the governor, the mayor here, the county judge. We have some time,” said Crane, who added the club’s losses this season “will be significant. Tens of millions.”
“The only thing we have to do to counter that is get some people into the building and sell some tickets and some merchandise and some cold beer and whatever they let us have.”