The Toronto Blue Jays are returning to their home away from home, Buffalo, N.Y., starting in June. And this time, they’ll have a limited number of fans in attendance.
Forced from Canada by that government’s coronavirus travel restrictions, the Blue Jays posted a note on their Twitter account on Wednesday saying: “Buffalo, we’re BACK! We’ll see you June 1st.” The words were over a picture of Buffalo’s downtown Sahlen Field, the regular home of the Blue Jays’ Triple-A farm team.
Toronto played its first two homestands at its spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., and will play its third there from May 14-24. But the Blue Jays did not want to remain in Florida for the hotter, more humid portion of the year.
The Blue Jays return to Buffalo with a homestand that includes games against Miami on June 1-2 and Houston from June 4-6. They’ll travel to Buffalo after a five-game trip that ends in Cleveland.
Toronto last played at 49,000-capacity Rogers Centre on Sept. 29, 2019, an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jays played home games during the shortened 2020 season in Buffalo and were 17-9 at Sahlen Field. They finished 32-28 to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and were swept, losing twice at eventual AL champion Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.
The Jays are 7-4 in Dunedin this season and 7-10 on the road.
Toronto hopes to return to Rogers Centre at some point this summer.
While the entire 2020 regular-season schedule was played without fans, about 4,300 spectators will initially be allowed to attend games in Buffalo, with the possibility of that number increasing. Capacity is listed at 16,600.
Fans will be required to show proof they’ve been vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 to be allowed entry. Canadians could travel to attend games, but would have to face self-quarantine rules upon returning home.
“The only thing lacking from a successful MLB summer at Sahlen Field in 2020 was the ability to share that experience with our great fans,” said Mike Buczkowski, president of Rich Baseball Operations, which owns the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. “I know Buffalo is ready to get back to the ballpark and give the Blue Jays a ‘home-away-from-home’ field advantage that will propel them towards another postseason run.”
The Blue Jays and Bisons have made significant upgrades to Sahlen Field since last season. The bullpens have been moved off the field and behind the outfield walls and the lighting has been improved. New batting cages and a weight room have been built, and clubhouses have been renovated.
The stadium’s dimensions measure 325 feet down the lines and 404 feet to centre. The ballpark is tight in the alleys, similar to Baltimore’s Camden Yards.
Because the Blue Jays are turning to Buffalo, the Bisons have moved home games to Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, N.J., which became open when the New York Yankees moved their Double-A team this season to TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J.
Before last season, Buffalo had not hosted a major league game since serving home to the Buffeds in the Federal League in 1914-15. The Bisons began as a National League team and had a 314-333 record from 1879-85.