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Blue Jays given OK to return to Toronto, will leave Buffalo next week

Nick Lippa
The Toronto Blue Jays face the Seattle Mariners June 30 at Sahlen Field in downtown Buffalo.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who for the second year were playing home games at Buffalo's Sahlen Field due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were informed Friday they may return to Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Major League Baseball franchise released a written statement confirming they had received permission from the Canadian government.

"After nearly two years away, the Toronto Blue Jays are finally coming home to Canada beginning July 30," the statement read. "The club was granted a National Interest Exemption by the federal government that allows Major League Baseball games to be played at Rogers Centre, with robust health and safety protocols in place."

The Jays' final home game in Buffalo will be Wednesday. The club's first home date back in Toronto is scheduled for July 30.

With the U.S.-Canada border closed since March 2020 as the result of the pandemic, the Jays last year found themselves in need of an alternate home. After being unable to secure space in another major league ballpark, the team announced in July 2020 it would play at Sahlen Field, but before seats filled with cardboard likenesses of fans.

This season, fans were allowed into Sahlen Field. The Bisons, to make way in anticipation of the Jays' return to Buffalo, announced earlier this year they would play their "home games" in Trenton, NJ.

The Bisons issued a written statement upon the announcement that the Jays will soon leave Buffalo.

"The Buffalo Bisons are extremely happy for the Blue Jays organization, the City of Toronto and their great fans with the news that they’ll soon be able to reunite at the Rogers Centre in Canada," the statement read. "We’re proud to have been able to support our Major League partner over the last two years and are especially thankfully for how our amazing fans in Buffalo and throughout Western New York have welcomed the Blue Jays and cheered for them as their hometown team this summer.

"This news is also a tremendous step in our region’s return from the pandemic and we very much look forward to the ability to reconnect soon with our great fans from Southern Ontario. We’re excited to be able to support the Blue Jays for their last six games at Sahlen Field and for the return of Bisons baseball to Buffalo later this season.”

The Jays invested in significant renovations at Sahlen Field, including a newer, larger home clubhouse relocated to the third base side. Visitors have changed in temporary accommodations beyond the right field wall.

With the Jays moving out and several weeks remaining in the minor league season, the Bisons can now plan to return to their proper home ballpark. But further stadium work will be needed to get the facilities ready for the team. According to the Buffalo News, the Bisons are hoping they may playatn Sahlen Field as soon as Aug. 10.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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