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Displaced Toronto baseball team reaches agreement to play 2020 season in Buffalo, New York

Sahlen Field, home of the minor league Buffalo Bisons baseball team, is seen July 20, 2019, in Buffalo, New York. For the 2020 season, the stadium will serve as the temporary home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

(The Center Square) – For the first time since 1957, the state of New York will host the home games of three Major League Baseball teams.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who have been scrambling to find a temporary home after they failed to secure approval from the Canadian government to host this season’s games, announced Friday that they’ll be playing the majority of their home schedule in Buffalo, New York. For this season only, they’ll join the New York Yankees and New York Mets in calling the state home.

The Blue Jays had sought an exemption to be able to cross the border between the U.S. and Canada for the season that began Thursday night. But while the city of Toronto and province of Ontario granted approval, the national government declined to grant the exemption.

The team next sought to line up a deal to share PNC Park in Pittsburgh with the Pirates, using the stadium on the days when the Pirates were away, but the Pennsylvania Department of Health rejected that plan, too. A similar plan to play in the stadium of the Baltimore Orioles also failed to come to fruition.

Buffalo’s Sahlen Field is the home of the Buffalo Bisons, a minor-league baseball team affiliated with the Blue Jays. Minor league facilities are not required to conform to the same standards of lighting and amenities as the big leagues, which made the Blue Jays reluctant to go that route. But with their options dwindling, the team took advantage of the available park. The minor league baseball season has been canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Sahlen Field available for use.

“The club would like to thank the Buffalo Bisons organization, Mayor [Byron] Brown of the City of Buffalo and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo of New York State,” Blue Jays President & CEO Mark Shaprio said in a statement Friday.

Cuomo had made his willingness to host the Blue Jays known this week, especially after it became clear Wednesday that the Pittsburgh plan had fallen through. On Friday, before the decision was announced, he said he had his “fingers crossed” that the Blue Jays would be able to play in Buffalo.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, was similarly enthusiastic about the Blue Jays playing the season in Buffalo.

“As I’ve said all along, Buffalo is a home run for the Blue Jays 2020 MLB season,” Schumer said in a statement. “When I spoke with Commissioner [Rob] Manfred earlier this week, I highlighted Sahlen Field’s top-notch facilities, its proximity to Toronto, and of course, Western New York’s world-class fan base.”

Schumer’s Pennsylvania counterpart, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, lambasted the decision not to let the Jays play in Pittsburgh, insisting that it served no purpose to reject the team and would mean giving up positive economic impacts.

“The Blue Jays in Pittsburgh would have meant more hours for some ballpark workers, increased tax revenue for the city, and a small yet meaningful boost for a number of local businesses struggling during the pandemic,” Toomey said.

The city of Buffalo has hosted major league games before; a past incarnation of the Bisons played in the National League from 1879 to 1883, finishing as high as third place in four of the seven seasons.

Before 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants combined with the Yankees to make up the state’s three teams during the first half of the 20th Century. That year, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the Giants moved to San Francisco. Four years later, in 1962, the Mets began play as an expansion team.

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