In literature, there is The Man Without A Country. In baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays were almost The Team Without a Ballpark.
In a baseball season like no other, the Blue Jays nearly found themselves homeless. Playing a full schedule on the road would be different like so many other things are in this hybrid baseball season.
First, the Jays were evicted from their home stadium by Canadian federal authorities, who thought it would not be the best idea to have baseball players crossing the border back and forth in this age of the coronavirus. As much as Canada loves its only Major League team, the country was not interested in gambling with the health of its citizens.
No problem. The Blue Jays worked out a deal to share the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. PNC Park is a showpiece of a stadium, a place any team would love to call home.
Nice try, Blue Jays.
The state of Pennsylvania turned thumbs down on this scheme, again citing health and safety protocols. The Pirates can play there. The Blue Jays cannot.
The next stop was Baltimore’s Camden Yards. The home of the Orioles is a nice facility. Talks were ongoing until Maryland authorities decided to pull the plug. Once again, the Blue Jays were without a nest.
With the season underway and the schedule calling for Toronto to play its first home game on July 29, the issue was becoming serious. It was then that the team settled on its Triple A facility in Buffalo for the bailout.
Sahlen Field is not a Major League facility, which is why the Toronto players turned thumbs down on it originally. But in a 60-game season with cardboard cutouts instead of fans in the seats, with fake crowd noise instead of legitimate cheers and boos, with a 16-team postseason playoff, the idea of holding games in a minor league ballpark seems to be the least of baseball’s problems.
There will be some adjustments made to the stadium to improve the lighting, upgrade the field and other amenities like the training and weight rooms. It will be a far cry from handsome Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. But, it beats playing the whole season on the road.
It probably won’t make a lot of difference to the Blue Jays. They hardly had a home field advantage last season when they were 35-46 at home in a 67-95 season.
The Blue Jays first home series scheduled for July 29-30 against Washington will be played as part of a four-game series in D.C. The Blue Jays will open at home on either July 31 against Philadelphia or Aug. 11 against Miami, depending on how quickly the Buffalo ballpark facilities can be adjusted.
Sometimes, an alternate home can be an advantage. In 1974, when Yankee Stadium was being overhauled, the Mets graciously allowed the Yankees to share Shea Stadium, of sacred memory. The team adjusted nicely going 47-34 in the home of their crosstown rivals, decidedly better than the 42-39 they logged on the road.
Those Yankees of Sparky Lyle, Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles, however, were a much better team than these Blue Jays of Travis Shaw, Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez .