TORONTO, ONT – The Toronto Blue Jays are talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about sharing their major league ballpark this season after Canada’s government barred them from playing in their home stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pirates President Travis Williams confirmed the talks and sounded ready to welcome the Blue Jays.
“In an effort to help in the return of the game we all love, we continue to have active discussions with Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays organization regarding the possibility of hosting home games for the Blue Jays at PNC Park this season," Williams said in a statement Monday.
"This will be a monumental challenge for our staff, but leaning in to help others is what Pittsburghers do best. If we are able to safely accommodate, not only will it bring additional international attention to our city, it will also bring with it jobs and revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses that will support the Blue Jays organization as well as additional visiting teams.”
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said he was pleased to read what the Pirates said.
“That’s encouraging that they feel that way about us coming,” he said. “Going to Pittsburgh, that's a beautiful ballpark. I already brought 10 Roberto Clemente T-shirts that I brought with me for some reason.”
Pirates manager Derek Shelton said he would have no problem with the Blue Jays moving in.
“I think if it's a situation where they need some place to play and we can help out then I think we should,” Shelton said following an 11-7 loss in Cleveland. “I do feel that major league teams should play in major league ballparks. If it works out way above my pay grade and they figure it out, then I think it would be cool.”
Shelton doesn't envision there being any conflict since the Blue Jays would be at PNC Park when the Pirates are out of town.
The Pirates are led by former Blue Jays executives Ben Cherington and Steve Sanders.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said earlier Monday that his team has more than five contingency plans and was in talks with other teams. He declined to name them.
“We are focused on getting into a major league facility,” Atkins said.
Canada denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at Rogers Centre because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging.
Atkins said if the Blue Jays can’t find a major league park, their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York, would be their most likely site for home games.
But based on what the players want and the collaboration they are getting from other teams and Major League Baseball, Atkins said the Blue Jays are focused on major league parks, as long as they can be safe. He said health and safety is the priority, so the ability to be socially distant without comprising other teams' ability to maintain socially distance is important.
Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday and is scheduled to play its first home game on July 29 against defending champion Washington.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila said MLB and the Blue Jays have not reached out to the Tigers about sharing Comerica Park. “I have a good idea where they’re going to go, but I can’t say," Avila said.
The team had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, which is among the states that are virus hot spots, or Sahlen Field in Buffalo, just across the Niagara River from Canada. Players have told management they want to be in a major league park.
Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said Saturday that player health is a concern in Florida. He said the team has spent more time examining Buffalo in recent days but said the stadium there has numerous infrastructure challenges.
MLB said if the Blue Jays play at a minor league park, the league would install the necessary video review infrastructure but might not be able to install TrackMan, a radar system that analyzes pitch movement.
Atkins said if the Blue Jays end up in Buffalo, their alternative training site for extra players would be in Rochester, New York.