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Canada denies permission for Toronto Blue Jays to play at home

The nation’s immigration chief said the cross-border travel required for professional baseball could be risky during the pandemic.
Image: Ruben Tejada
Toronto Blue Jays infielder Ruben Tejada catches a pop up during an intra-squad game in summer training at Rogers Centre on Jul 10 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Canada's government, fearful that the border crossing required for professional baseball could spread COVID-19, has prohibited the Toronto Blue Jays from playing regular season games at home.

The Blue Jays were allowed to conduct preseason training in Canada as long as they remained isolated at facilities connected to their home field, Rogers Centre. But regular season play would require the team to head south for major league games in the United States.

"Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians' health and safety," the nation's immigration minister, Marco E. L. Mendicino, said in a statement Saturday.

Mendicino said such precautions have allowed Canada to "flatten the curve."

The team said in a statement that it was working on finding a new home field.

"The club completely respects the federal government's decision," Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro said in the statement. "Though our team will not be playing home games at Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation."

Mendicino said the government could lift the ban after the regular season.

"We remain open to considering future restart plans for the post-season should the risk of virus transmission diminish," he said.

Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday, he said such travel restrictions were already "mutually agreed" to by the U.S. and Canada as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"We're not taking decisions as fans," Mendicino said. "We're taking decisions on the basis of evidence and the advice we’ve received to protect the health and safety of all Canadians."

On Friday, Major League Baseball, which is planning on salvaging its season with a restart next week that will not include fans, said 13 of 30 teams have had at least one member of their organization test positive.

Michelle Acevedo contributed.