Blue Jays team president/CEO Mark Shapiro discussed several topics during a wide-ranging interview with Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic (subscription required), including an update on the team’s plans to hopefully play games in Toronto during the 2021 season. Shapiro feels “we have significant positive and objective momentum that would lead us to make a more formal ask sometime in the next month” about setting a somewhat more concrete date for later in the summer about when the Jays could return to the Rogers Centre.
Naturally, much is still up in the air in regards to these plans depending on the state of the pandemic. Shapiro doesn’t “have a potential target date” for when the Jays might again play in their home city, but he has more optimism that more significant discussions could occur now that vaccinations are taking place. Most notably, he also stated that the team has “fairly good information that the vaccine will be accessible to our players and other major-league teams in the next two to three weeks or month.”
“So that if by the end of April or early May all of our players or the bulk of our players and staff are vaccinated and other teams are as well and Toronto is a safe place…the risks start to be mitigated. I would say that when we start to have that material progress that we see the vaccinations actually happening, we will start to formalize an ask.”
This doesn’t cover the possibility of when fans may be able to attend games at Rogers Centre, as Shapiro said “One [step] is just to get back. And the second step will be to get back with some measure of fans.” The city of Toronto has barred all public events until July 1 (Canada Day), and while the Jays could conceivably play empty-stadium games at Rogers Centre before that date, Shapiro acknowledged that in all likelihood, “we can’t come back to Toronto before July 1, unless something changes dramatically.”
The Blue Jays are slated to play regular-season home games in Dunedin through May 2, with homestands scheduled from May 14-24 and June 1-6. It’s probably safe to assume the Jays will remain Florida-bound at least through May, as Shapiro said that “Obviously, we’re probably going to be in Dunedin a little longer than we’ve communicated,” but “playing here [in Dunedin] past early June is going to probably be a challenge, just weather-wise.”
Buffalo remains the probable next stop for the Blue Jays. Buffalo’s Sahlen Field already had something of an overhaul last summer in order to make the park Major League-ready, and Shapiro said that the team is currently working with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons for more stadium upgrades in preparation for games in 2021.