TORONTO -- In a season that’s already unique in nearly every way, the Blue Jays will be doing things a bit differently.
Thursday’s news that the Blue Jays were approved to hold Summer Camp at Rogers Centre was a major step for the club -- and exactly what they were hoping for -- but the realities of crossing the Canada-U.S. border under their exemption from the Canadian government will make this camp one of a kind.
The Blue Jays are expected to fly into Toronto over the weekend and begin formal training days after. When that happens, here’s how it will work.
Getting to Toronto
Blue Jays players and staff have been gathering in Dunedin, Fla., already to go through the screening process. Once a player has two negative COVID-19 tests, they may travel to Toronto.
Leaving Florida, TSA screenings will take place at either TD Ballpark or planeside, minimizing any contact the players and staff would have moving through an airport or crowds of people. That charter plane will fly to Pearson International Airport, at which time the players and staff will board private buses that have followed all cleaning protocols put forth by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Those buses will go straight to Rogers Centre, where players and staff will need to get comfortable.
The “hybrid quarantine”
In Toronto, players will not be permitted to leave the “stadium footprint,” which covers Rogers Centre and the hotel attached to it. The players will be staying in that hotel in a separate block of rooms reserved for them, and they will be there for the entirety of Summer Camp.
Isolation and physical distancing will be key to this part of the Blue Jays’ plans. All check-ins and check-outs will be contactless, while contactless food delivery and private dining will be used to avoid any interaction with the public. The use of common spaces, like taking the elevator, will be discouraged, but players will still have direct access to the field from the hotel, negating any need to leave that bubble.
Hotel staff will undergo daily health assessments and temperature screenings prior to their shifts and will wear masks while inside the building.
What will Summer Camp actually look like?
Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro shared Thursday that the Blue Jays will play no exhibition games in Summer Camp, meaning all of their preparation will come against each other. Add that to their travel in the coming days, and the fact that the Blue Jays will be the only club facing many of these limitations, and it’s clear that they’ll be fighting uphill a bit. That puts extra value on the players’ individual preparations over the past three-plus months.
“Talking to [general manager] Ross [Atkins], he feels good, particularly about our core guys and their level of preparation and readiness,” Shapiro said.
In the stadium itself, the following measures will be taken:
• Four clubhouses will be used, with distance between each player stall.
• Every other sink will be blocked off, with shared toiletries removed.
• The Blue Jays will utilize both the home and visiting batting cages.
• Between the bullpens and field, the Blue Jays have five mounds, and while they think that should suffice, they also have the ability to create additional throwing mounds, if needed.
There is a 100-plus-page document that covers not only MLB’s protocols, but also additional protocols put in place by the Blue Jays in cooperation with Canadian health officials. Players have been educated on those protocols and brought up to speed on the penalties that would come with breaking quarantine. Shapiro said the players have been a part of the collaborative process throughout and that all are expected to report.
The Blue Jays will undergo testing “beyond” MLB protocols, Shapiro added, which already includes COVID-19 testing every other day and temperature checks twice each day. Antibody testing will be conducted once per month.