Shapiro: Blue Jays ‘hope’ to play in Toronto, but planning alternatives

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro addresses his level of optimism that the team will open the 2021 season in Toronto, but says this whole pandemic hasn't given them the luxury to plan for it, and they'll have to also plan for alternatives.

The unknowns for the 2021 MLB season are seemingly endless: When will the season start? How many games will teams play? Will there be a universal designated hitter?

For the Toronto Blue Jays, the lone team north of the Canada-U.S. border, there’s one additional COVID-19-charged hurdle: Where will they play?

That remains to be seen, as team president Mark Shapiro noted during a call with media members on Friday. The Blue Jays are still hoping to play at the Rogers Centre, but that’s far from guaranteed in an ever-changing situation.

“We don’t have the luxury of letting optimism guide our process,” Shapiro said. “So, yes, I am optimistic, but this whole pandemic and crisis has been kind of walking the tightrope between optimism and being candid and real as to what the circumstances are.”

The circumstances are as follows: The Canada-U.S. border remains closed for nonessential travel (as it has been since March 18); Toronto played at its triple-A facility, Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, for the majority of its home games in 2020 because the Rogers Centre wasn’t an option; the U.S. and Canada are both posting higher daily COVID-19 case counts now than at any previous juncture of the pandemic.

As a result, the Blue Jays are in wait-and-see mode regarding their home base for 2021. Why make a decision today when the situation could look completely different tomorrow?

“Things are moving so rapidly, I think understanding where the vaccines are in the U.S., understanding where they are in Canada… I don’t have answers for any of those things,” Shapiro said. “Once we have greater clarity, those types of variables — along with a lot of MLB input — will guide our actions and what we do.”

Shapiro said that the team is certainly looking into alternatives for where to play its home games next season if Toronto is not an option, but that “there’s nothing concrete in place.”

The only concrete notion for now, it seems, is that the Blue Jays still hope to call Toronto their home in 2021.

“Our optimism and our hope leads us to want to be here — but not to count on that,” Shapiro said.

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