Blue Jays returning to Toronto on July 30

July 17th, 2021

The Toronto Blue Jays are coming home.

After parts of two seasons spent playing out of Buffalo, N.Y., and Dunedin, Fla., unable to return home to Rogers Centre throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Jays announced Friday that they have received a National Interest Exemption from the Canadian federal government and will return home on July 30 to resume their season.

When the Blue Jays take the field that day to face the Royals, Major League Baseball will be played in Canada for the first time in 670 days, stretching back to their final game of the 2019 season. The club announced that their home games in Toronto will be played with "robust health and safety protocols in place" as visiting teams come in and out of Canada.

“First and foremost, the Blue Jays wish to thank Canadians for their unprecedented public health efforts and support for the team. Without you, Blue Jays baseball would not be coming home this summer,” the club said in a release. “In addition, the organization wishes to acknowledge Blue Jays staff and players for their tireless efforts and dedication during a franchise-defining chapter of team history, and whose resilience never wavered through immense challenges and times of uncertainty."

The Blue Jays received this news just prior to Friday’s 10-2 win over the Rangers, which seemed to provide an extra jolt of energy. Manager Charlie Montoyo got the news from general manager Ross Atkins and began to share it with players as the word spread quickly through the clubhouse and social media.

“Having that big moment, everybody was smiling, everybody was happy. I was so excited,” Montoyo said. “All of the coaches were excited. It was great news. It showed in the game. Everybody was happy from that news. Let me say this, too. I don’t want to forget about how great Buffalo has been to us and the job they did here to make it close to a big league ballpark. The Buffalo people, the stands were full. Buffalo has been great, but we’re the Toronto Blue Jays. It will be great to go home and show this team to the whole nation.”

In a statement Friday, Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of immigration, laid out some of the protocols that visiting teams will need to follow under this plan. Beginning with pre- and post-arrival testing of all players and team personnel, unvaccinated players and team personnel will receive an additional four tests each week.

There will be strict rules in place for unvaccinated individuals, who will undergo a “modified quarantine.” This means that they will not be allowed to leave Rogers Centre or the attached hotel, similar to how the Blue Jays quarantined their own players and staff through Summer Camp last summer.

Each team will have a designated “Compliance Officer,” Mendicino announced, and any individual who breaches the conditions will have their exemption revoked by the federal government and be subject to fines or prosecution under Canada’s Quarantine Act.

This is the moment that the Blue Jays’ organization has been working towards since COVID-19 caused baseball to shut down during Spring Training in 2020. The Blue Jays held their Summer Camp at Rogers Centre in July of 2020, but were eventually denied permission to play their home games in Canada. After exploring multiple options at other MLB parks, the club settled down at Sahlen Field in Buffalo.

The 2021 season presented another layer of challenges, as the Blue Jays opened the season in their Spring Training home of TD Ballpark before eventually moving back to Buffalo on June 1. Extensive renovations were done to Sahlen Field for the club’s second season there, most of which will be permanent and benefit the organization’s Triple-A affiliate moving forward, but returning to Toronto as quickly and safely as possible has been the club’s No. 1 priority throughout the process.

“We’re used to not really knowing. We just play one game at a time and try not to worry about the stuff we can’t control,” said Cavan Biggio. “Finally getting to the finish line and getting to go to Canada, it’s very exciting to say the least. We’re looking forward to not only being back in our home, but also seeing our own fans.”

July 30 could align well with an upswing for the Blue Jays, too. With the Trade Deadline near and the Blue Jays expected to be active in their push for the postseason, returning home to Toronto will only add another layer to the emotional boost this club could benefit from.

This will also represent a delayed home debut for many of the Blue Jays’ regulars. Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling, both acquired during the 2020 season, have yet to play in a Blue Jays uniform at Rogers Centre. The same goes for George Springer and Marcus Semien, Toronto’s two biggest offseason signings. Even Hyun Jin Ryu, signed on Dec. 27, 2019, will be taking the mound at Rogers Centre for the very first time.