Blue Jays: The case for and against physically distanced games in 2021

Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Is there a timeline where Toronto Blue Jays fans could attend games in person in 2021? We discuss the arguments for and against fans at Rogers Centre next season.

It wasn’t ground-breaking news, but it was news involving the ground. The Toronto Blue Jays are laying new turf at the Rogers Centre.

While this might be a footnote in any other season, it serves as a launching point for a larger question in the age of COVID-19. Could we really have the Blue Jays back in Toronto this season? Might there even be in-person attendance permitted?

There are arguments for all sides, from the Jays shuffling off to Buffalo again to allowing in-person attendance in Toronto. Let’s discuss.

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If you could purpose-build a venue for hosting live sporting events in a pandemic, it might look a little something like the Rogers Centre. For starters, it’s massive, with plenty of room inside the seating bowl to space patrons out. The retractable roof also helps its case, as air circulation wouldn’t be as much of a concern with the roof peeled back.

The only questionable period would be during entry and exit, as there are some chokepoints around the building that could force large groups to come together. The added transit trips and ventures outside of the home for fans wanting to come out to games would also need some risk evaluation.

However, if we see the same decline in cases that we saw this summer AND we have a vaccine in circulation amongst the general public, it could be possible.

But the feature that sets the Rogers Centre apart as a COVID-proof stronghold is its on-site hotel. After arriving from the airport, visiting teams would never have to leave the premises, staying for their three-game sets and then going straight on to the next town.

While this still carries considerable risks involving those employed at the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel, it eliminates the need for shuttling visiting players from the hotel to the ballpark.

One potential pitfall lies with Toronto’s status as a world-class city. Toronto in the summer is tempting, and baseball players can be a boisterous bunch. Their mental fortitude to stay put would be tested.

Potential case study for the Toronto Blue Jays

Another interesting point lies with just who is going to be making the decisions. The federal government barred the Blue Jays from playing in Toronto last season, but “provincial public health rules” allowed 250 Montreal Impact supporters to attend matches in Quebec last summer. It is worth noting that MLS clubs were only allowed to play in Canada against other Canadian opponents. Once the American portion of the schedule began, all three of Canada’s teams decamped for the United States.

More pertinent might be the decision to allow the IIHF World Junior Championships to go ahead in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. Team Canada dealt with cases in their training camp and had to temporarily pause all operations. More positive COVID tests have followed, from the Swedish team’s coaching staff to the president of the IIHF himself. The tournament includes teams from 10 nations, including COVID hotspots such as the United States and Czechia.

While I am still shocked that the powers that be are allowing an international sporting tournament to go on within our borders, the fact that the World Juniors will take place in Canada could mean one of two things for the Blue Jays. If all goes well and they get their COVID cases under control, it could be the catalyst for the return of more sporting events to Canada. Alternatively, if cases continue to flare up, it could act as the chief deterrent for Canada hosting any more sports during the pandemic. Either way, there will be more than just hockey to look out for during this year’s tourney.

There are a multitude of unknowns concerning the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays, from personnel to playing surface. However, what’s for certain is that Blue Jays Nation will be ready to fill those light blue seats as soon as it is safe to do so.

Hopefully, that’s sooner rather than later.

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Would you feel comfortable attending a physically-distanced Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre next summer? Let us know in the comments below!