G20 prevents Halladay's return to Toronto
All things considered, they'll play in Philadelphia, MLB says
The highly anticipated return of pitcher Roy Halladay to Toronto in late June has been scuttled by security concerns over the G20 Summit.
On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced the series scheduled for June 25, 26, and 27 between the Blue Jays and Halladay's current club, the Philadelphia Phillies, has been moved to Philadelphia.
The meeting of world leaders will be taking place June 26 and 27 in Toronto's Metro Convention Centre, just steps from the Rogers Centre — which falls within an outer security zone.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston said that missing out on an appearance by Halladay and the 2009 World Series champions made the decision difficult.
"I'm aware of what [Halladay's visit] would have been," Beeston said. "It would have been a terrific opportunity to recognize a quality individual and, equally as important, we had a team that's been in the World Series the last two years.
"It's not something where you sit back and say, 'So what?' It's a big deal. The fact is, the Phillies won't be here. The Phillies have a great team this year, so it would have been great for our fans."
MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a release that after a review of the options with the people involved, it was decided that moving the series to Philadelphia was best course.
Beeston echoed Selig's concerns over security.
"We did not want to move the games but in looking at the realities of the situation, we felt that relocation was the most prudent course of action."
Beeston told a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the relocation decision was entirely up to the team.
"This is our decision," Beeston said. "This is not a G20 request."
Beeston also said a neutral site was considered, such as Cleveland, Detroit or even Ottawa, but Philadelphia was the best option.
Still to be home games
The games, despite being played in a National League ballpark, will be considered home games for Toronto, so the designated hitter will be used and Blue Jays will bat last.
It may be a tough pill to swallow for fans as well as management. The series was expected to be one of the crowd-starved Blue Jays' biggest draws of the season. The team has broken its own lowest-attendance record twice this season.
Beeston said his team had budgeted for about 90,000 fans over the three days — "probably more if Doc was pitching" — but it would have been difficult for those fans to get to the ballpark with the increased security.
People living and working in the area will be required to register to get access to their homes and places of business during the summit.
Toronto has been drawing 15,207 fans a game, good for second-last in the majors, while the Phillies lead the MLB in attendance, drawing more than 45,000 fans per game.
Toronto has worked out a compensation deal with the Phillies to make up for the loss of three home dates.
"We're hoping to be revenue-neutral," Beeston said. "We don't want to lose money on it."
All ticket holders will get a full refund and a free ticket voucher for each ticket refunded for any upcoming home game this season.
With files from The Canadian Press