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Blue Jays denied approval to host games in Canada

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There will be no regular-season Major League Baseball games in Canada this summer for the first time since 1968.

The Toronto Blue Jays were denied approval by the Canadian government to play home games at Rogers Centre amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Rob Gillies of The Associated Press.

The Blue Jays were given an exemption by the federal government to hold camp at the ballpark and isolate in a hotel within the stadium, but the regular season provided too many obstacles.

"Unlike preseason training, regular season games would require repeated cross-border travel of Blue Jays players and staff, as well as opponent teams into and out of Canada. Of particular concern, the Toronto Blue Jays would be required to play in locations where the risk of virus transmission remains high," said Marco Mendicino, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship.

"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. As a result, Canada will not be issuing a national interest exemption for the MLB's regular season at this time."

The Canadian government told the Blue Jays that it's "open to considering future restart plans for the postseason should the risk of virus transmission diminish," according to Scott Mitchell of TSN.

The Blue Jays received the green light to host games from the municipal and provincial governments but needed the federal government to approve an exemption for Canada's Quarantine Act, which requires any person entering the country for nonessential reasons to self-isolate for 14 days.

"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," Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said in a statement Saturday.

The team also announced that it's in the "process of finalizing" a home location for the 2020 campaign.

Toronto mayor John Tory also supported the federal government's decision.

Buffalo emerged as the club's preferred backup plan over Dunedin, Florida, in recent days, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, who adds the team already has some staff in Buffalo laying groundwork.

However, Buffalo's Sahlen Field must have lighting that is fit for MLB games and to ensure replay infrastructure can exist.

"We have been making plans over the last several days to see what it would take to get our ballpark ready should this scenario arise," Rich Baseball Operations president Mike Buczkowski told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. "But we have no definite 'yes' that the games will be played here at this time."

Additionally, Shapiro said Sahlen Field's smaller dimensions will make it more difficult to adhere to MLB's safety protocols, according to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.

Dunedin remains the only option that would feature a seamless transition, but there are health issues at play with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Longley notes.

There's also a chance the Blue Jays play in a completely different location, but nothing has been finalized yet.

Prior to the federal government's decision, the Blue Jays and players discussed the team paying off apartment leases, putting them up at the Rogers Centre hotel, and giving hardship pay of $20,000-plus, sources told Jeff Passan of ESPN.

The new season starts July 23, and the Blue Jays' home opener is scheduled for July 29 against the Washington Nationals.

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