TORONTO – Three fast-paced weeks of discussions with federal health and government officials resulted in the Toronto Blue Jays obtaining a national interest waiver on Friday, allowing them to return home for a pivotal 10-game home stay from July 30.
Team officials were informed of the decision around 6 p.m. ET, and Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, signed the order shortly before joining Blue Jays Central to announce the news.
The July 30 game against the visiting Kansas City Royals will be the club’s first at their Rogers Center home since their 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on September 29, 2019.
Very grateful for the support and hospitality in Dunedin and Buffalo, but after more than 650 days, we will finally return HOME. I can’t tell you how excited we are to play in front of our fans and in our city and our country. Get ready Toronto, we’re back! https://t.co/aXYq0bv4Z8
– Mark Shapiro (@MarkShapiro) July 16, 2021
“The fans, that’s No. One thing (the team has been lost),” manager Charlie Montoyo said after a 10-2 win over the Texas Rangers. “It seems like we’ve been playing on the road (the whole time) even though Buffalo has been great. There are a lot of New York fans and while they’ve been great to us, it’s not Toronto. Toronto is one of the best cities in baseball and just to see all the fans supporting us, that will be an advantage for us. Everything in Toronto is just amazing. You should have seen everyone’s faces when we found out, everyone was so happy about it. “
A positive result for the Blue Jays was far from a certainty when the team presented its proposal to the federal government about three weeks ago, and club officials wavered between optimism and pessimism every day, sometimes hourly.
They had run out of time to logistically carry out a move north from Buffalo and a decision was needed by Friday, although they were willing to play a little longer if necessary.
But momentum picked up on Thursday after Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy director of public health, said his application was “going in a very good direction” and did not include any “spectacular.” The conversations on Friday finalized the protocols, among which the following stand out:
A two-way plan in which fully vaccinated players are treated like any other returning traveler and are exempt from quarantine, while partially vaccinated or unvaccinated players are limited to their residence / hotel and the ballpark; unvaccinated players cannot interact with the general public and any violation of the rules is punishable by loss of exemption from quarantine and the possibility of fines or prosecution under the Quarantine Law; pre-arrival and post-arrival tests for all, plus four more tests per week for all unvaccinated people.
The Blue Jays were still evaluating how they will be treated under Ontario’s current pandemic rules, but since the Rogers Center is expected to be considered an outdoor venue, they should have a capacity of 15,000 under Stage 3 regulations.
“The hardest part was just not knowing,” third baseman Cavan Biggio said. “A lot of ‘we’ll see in a week’ or ‘we’ll see tomorrow’ or ‘we’ll see then.’ Last year, we all knew that COVID was very fresh in our minds and in the world, that was just part of it. And heading into this year, we knew we probably wouldn’t start in Toronto, but we didn’t know yet. Finally getting that information of ‘we’re reaching the finish line and we can finally get back to Toronto’ was a very satisfying and definitely exciting feeling. “
Earlier this week during the All-Star Game, representatives for the Blue Jays in Denver spoke about their desire to go north, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said in an interview that “we miss our own fans so much.”
“When we played in Dunedin, almost all the fans were supporting the other team,” he added in comments interpreted by Hector Lebron. “When we play the Yankees in Buffalo, everyone goes for the Yankees. It is a little difficult “.
– Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 16, 2021
Shortstop Bo Bichette added: “We want to get home, you know? We have a chance to make the playoffs and we would love for the fans to support us. That would be surprising. But if it doesn’t happen, we’ll keep fighting and fighting in Buffalo and doing our best. “
There’s no need for that with the Blue Jays’ long run coming to an end after what will be an unprecedented third move in a single season. His home schedule began at TD Ballpark, his spring facility in Dunedin, Florida, and moved to Buffalo’s Sahlen Field in June.
Expect a two-week sprint in which the Blue Jays must move their entire team north, rehire to sell tickets and set up and staff the stadium, pack up the apartments and close the leases in Buffalo and find and move. to new places in Toronto.
“That’s why this team deserves so much credit,” Montoyo said. “You have never seen a team that moves so many times in one season. I hope we never see him again. You’re talking about the clubhouse guys, the families, the leases that we have here in Buffalo right now, they all have to talk to the (owners) to see what we can do with the leases. The same is true in Dunedin. It will be our fourth move (including last season). But our room is happy because we will return to Toronto. So even though it’s going to be difficult … at least we’ll go back to Toronto and that makes it easier. “
Coming home in time for the July 30 home stay was a priority for the Blue Jays to have a true home advantage in time for a crucial 10-game stretch. That represents an eighth of their home schedule and having fans who will be excited about the club’s return, seeing the club for the first time since its emergence as a playoff contender, and with Guerrero Jr. in the midst of what is shaping up to be the best. . The offensive season in team history can be a powerful combination.
– Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 17, 2021
Although the attendance numbers may not be the same due to capacity limits, it is similar to the wick lit in 2015 when the Blue Jays took off after the change deadline and the building shook for the next two and a half years.
“I remember being in college (at Notre Dame) and watching those Blue Jays games and I just remember how electric they were,” Biggio said. “Then when the Toronto Blue Jays called me by name, that was No. One thing I thought about when they drafted me, imagining myself at Rogers Center, at big games in September and October and with that crowd. behind your back and ultimately the electricity you could see on TV and wonder what it is. it will be like in the field. That’s always the vibe and thoughts when you’re in the minor leagues, playing Dunedin or wherever you are, it’s always the goal to get to. And now that we’ve been here and finally coming back to Toronto with a solid team, I’m very excited, to say the least. “