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Blue Jays set for Summer Camp at home

@KeeganMatheson
July 2, 2020

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays received clearance from the Canadian government Thursday to host their Summer Camp at Rogers Centre, which they hope is the first step toward them playing out of Toronto for the entirety of the 2020 season. This current exemption does not cover the 60-game regular season,

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays received clearance from the Canadian government Thursday to host their Summer Camp at Rogers Centre, which they hope is the first step toward them playing out of Toronto for the entirety of the 2020 season.

This current exemption does not cover the 60-game regular season, scheduled to begin on July 23 and 24. Just to get to this current point, the Blue Jays had to work extensively with the Canadian government, the province of Ontario, the city of Toronto and the public health board. Each group had their own area of expertise and concerns, but the club was able to reach an approval.

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“We were respectful and deferential each step of the way, understanding that we were asking a lot, and we’re just appreciative of the time to work through it," Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said Thursday.

In recent weeks, the Blue Jays had narrowed their focus to either Toronto or Dunedin, Fla., their spring home, but Rogers Centre was the clear and stated priority. The closure of the Canada-U.S. border to all non-essential travel was one of many complicating factors, including the drastically different public health realities in both locations. On Thursday, the province of Ontario, with a population of nearly 15 million, announced fewer than 200 new cases of COVID-19 for the third consecutive day.

Earlier this week, players and team personnel began their screening process in Dunedin, which was part of MLB protocol regardless of where the Blue Jays would play. All involved will be required test negative for COVID-19 twice before flying to Toronto, which Shapiro expects to begin over the upcoming weekend.

Once in Toronto, the Blue Jays will enter a modified quarantine. All players will stay at the hotel attached to Rogers Centre, with a quarantined block of rooms and various contactless and distancing procedures in place. Players can access the field directly from the hotel and will stay there for the duration of Summer Camp.

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The regular season is a different situation entirely. Not only would that involve the Blue Jays operating out of Toronto for another two-plus months, but it introduces the complicating factor of road teams traveling in and out of the country. That’s where Shapiro’s focus now lies, and there’s been progress made on that front already as many of the issues were either covered in the Summer Camp process or ran parallel to them.

“We do have a plan for that,” Shapiro said. “We have made significant progress on the public health areas of that plan, but we still do have some areas to address. I’d say we’re 80 percent of the way there on pure public-health issues, but then there are a host of travel-related and logistical issues that create complexities that we still need to work through.”

Shapiro is hoping the Blue Jays can receive some clarity on that in the next week-to-10-days, leaving them with enough time to properly plan for the regular season based on their home park. If not Rogers Centre, the fallback option would again be TD Ballpark in Dunedin.

Players currently in Dunedin who have tested negative will begin to work out Friday, and once charter flights arrive in Toronto, formal workouts will begin at Rogers Centre with further details on those training plans to come soon.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.