Toronto

Blue Jays could be back in Toronto as early as July 30

If you have been eagerly awaiting the return of the Blue Jays to Toronto, you might be in luck — depending on the outcome of a recent proposal, the team could come back to the city as early as July 30. 

Toronto FC could also make their return to city soon

Toronto Blue Jays' Randal Grichuk, right, is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in Buffalo, N.Y. The Blue Jays could be back in Toronto by the end of July, pending the outcome of an application to the federal government. (Adrian Kraus/The Associated Press)

If you've been eagerly waiting for the Blue Jays to make their way back to Toronto, you might be in luck: the team says they're seeking approval for a return to the city as early as July 30. 

As first reported by Sportsnet, the team says they recently submitted a proposal to the federal government asking for approval to return to the Rogers Centre this summer. 

A team spokesperson confirmed to CBC News in an email that they have the green light from both the city and the Ontario government to make the move.

"The Blue Jays have submitted a proposal to the federal government on a return to Toronto after receiving support from the city and province. We continue to push towards our goal of coming home to our fans at Rogers Centre this summer," the email read.

The Jays want to return as early as July 30, the beginning of a 10-game home stand. 

In June, team president Mark Shapiro announced the team would be extending their stay at their adopted home in Buffalo until July 21.

He hadn't ruled out the possibility of the Blue Jays returning to Toronto this season, but cautioned the decision would hinge on whether Canada relaxes border restrictions.

As of today, border restrictions are beginning to loosen for fully vaccinated Canadians. You can read more about that here

Away since September 2019

So far this season, the Blue Jays have 43 wins and 39 losses. The team is sitting in third place in the AL East. 

The Blue Jays have not played in Toronto since closing the 2019 season with an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 29.

Seeing the "boys in blue" play would be a welcome change after so much time away, one fan says. 

"I've been dying to watch some baseball here at the Rogers Centre," said Mauricio Prada. "I know everyone's been missing that here." 

Quincy Brathwaite, from Toronto, agrees.

"I would be so happy," he told CBC News on Monday. "Give them a chance and an opportunity to bring them back home." 

Grichuk, left, celebrates with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. after hitting a home run. (Adrian Kraus/The Associated Press)

The proposal to the federal government comes after Ontario announced an accelerated return-to-play plan in June for professional and elite amateur leagues as the province loosens COVID-19 restrictions.

Sport minister Lisa MacLeod said on June 14 that high-level teams can now hold full-contact practice and dry-land training as long as it's in accordance with provincial guidelines.

She said leagues will be allowed to resume games as early as August.

The province's return-to-play plan applies to 18 leagues across six sports, including the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association.

While it's currently unclear if — and how many — fans would be allowed inside the arena, Prada says he hopes they will be able to cheer on the "boys in blue" at Rogers Centre this summer. 

Mauricio Prada says seeing the Blue Jays play in person would be a 'light at the end of the tunnel' for sports fans after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions. (CBC)

"Just to have some fans in the stands to see them play, especially for the year and a half this has been going on … I think it would be huge for the city," he said. 

Jasminee Persaud says the move would also be a step toward normalcy for Torontonians. 

"I think post-COVID everyone can use a boost — economically, socially emotionally — I think people are ready to get out and enjoy the things that represent normal life," she said. 

Toronto FC travelling back

Meanwhile, Toronto FC president Bill Manning says he is optimistic the MLS team will soon be able to play games again at BMO Field.

Toronto, which finished the 2020 campaign in East Hartford, Conn., set up shop in Orlando this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

But the travelling party is returning home Thursday with the hope it will soon be able to host games.

"The regulations allow us to come home and train, those that are fully vaccinated," Manning told reporters Sunday from Orlando. "So we will certainly take advantage of that."

He added that the team is pleased that border restrictions have eased, and that they will be back on Thursday, following their game against New England on Wednesday. 

But more work has to be done to get the green light for BMO Field.

"We're still in some discussions there. But everything seems to be headed in the right direction," said Manning. "This next week will be really important to kind of finalize those discussions and hopefully get a positive decision on that end."

Toronto FC defender Omar Gonzalez (44) and Orlando City forward Daryl Dike collide as they battle for the ball during The Lions' 3-2 victory on June 19. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto last played at BMO Field on Sept. 1, 2020. Since then, it has played 25 regular-season games and one playoff contest on the road.

While the team managed to finish second overall in the regular-season standings last year, at 13-5-5, it currently sits in the league basement at 1-8-2.

GM Ali Curtis said all of the team staff and almost all of the players are fully vaccinated.

After the midweek New England game, Toronto does not play again until July 17, against Orlando City. Manning said that game will not be at TFC's pandemic home of Orlando's Exploria Stadium.

"I am optimistic," he said. "I think there are good discussions and things with the pandemic are going in the right direction. You're seeing more and more things open up."

He said the club does have a backup plan involving another U.S. host city in case it does not get the OK. He did not specify the city, saying it had not been finalized.

Manning made his comments during a virtual news conference to address the firing of head coach Chris Armas.

With files from Greg Ross and The Canadian Press

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