The latest hindrance against Major League Baseball restarting has come from the Canadian government, who announced that the Toronto Blue Jays will not be permitted to play in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was announced by Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a statement Saturday.
The team had already been given the green light by local and provincial governments to play regular-season games at Rogers Centre. The federal approval was the only remaining hurdle.
“Unlike preseason training, regular season games would require repeated cross-border travel of Blue Jays players and staff, as well as opponent teams into and out of Canada. Of particular concern, the Toronto Blue Jays would be required to play in locations where the risk of virus transmission remains high,” Mendicino said. “Based on the best available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety. As a result, Canada will not be issuing a National Interest Exemption for the MLB’s regular season at this time.”
Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro said in a statement, “Though our team will not be playing home games at Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation.”
MLB and the Blue Jays needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The United States-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least Aug. 21.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to start the season on July 24 at Tampa Bay. Their home opener was scheduled for July 29 against Washington.
The Blue Jays had received an exemption for summer camp with specific guidelines in place. Players and team personnel had to agree to isolate in the hotel attached to Rogers Centre and create a quarantine environment. Players were not allowed to leave the stadium or hotel; violation would have resulted in fines and possibly even arrests.
The NHL has received an exemption from the Canadian government to restart their season but since all games are in a pair of hub cities (Edmonton and Toronto), that was a simpler scenario altogether because travel over the country’s border will not occur
It is unclear what Major League Baseball and the Blue Jays will decide to do next with Opening Day rapidly approaching.