Hartford Mayor to Toronto Blue Jays: ‘Hartford's Ready'; Lamont Open to Welcoming Team in Conn.

The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a home park for the season after Canada denied the team from playing in Toronto due to the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a home base to play baseball this season and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Hartford "would be thrilled" to host the team to play at Dunkin' Donuts Park.

"In these extraordinary times, we think it could make a great home for the Blue Jays," Bronin said.

Bronin said he will always prioritize safety in any of these decisions.

"We do believe that we could responsibly, safely host the Blue Jays here for their shorter season this year and obviously think it would be a great thing for the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut," Bronin said.

The major league Blue Jays have been looking for a new home location after Canada denied the Blue Jays' request to play in Toronto because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging.

One option was for PNC Park in Pittsburgh to fill in for the Rogers Centre as the Blue Jays' home stadium, but the state of Pennsylvania won't allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play there amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced Wednesday.

A source familiar with the Blue Jays matter told the Associated Press the team is engaged in talks with the Baltimore Orioles about playing "home games" at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The official said the Orioles are trying to help Toronto however they can but says there are lots of logistics to be worked through yet in terms of feasibility. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the Blue Jays are working on other contingencies, too.

When asked if there has been any official overture by the city to the Blue Jays, Bronin declined to answer.

Governor Ned Lamont said Thursday he would be ready to welcome the Blue Jays to Connecticut.

"I think it'd be a nice thing," Lamont said. "I think it'd be good to get Yard Goats stadium to life and maybe we'll be able to get some people in there in the fall if things get better."

Lamont said he reached out to the team "about a week ago and early on there." The governor said he has not had any conversations with the team yet but believes there has "been some contact between them and the Yard Goats."

The Yard Goats tweeted on Saturday a subtle nod to the Toronto Blue Jays posting a photo of a blue jay with the caption: "You're my boy Blue."

"Given the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford's diligent work in combatting the coronavirus, the availability of the award-winning Dunkin Donuts Park, and our centralized location in the Northeast, the Yard Goats would be honored to host the Toronto Blue Jays, if given the opportunity," Tim Restall,
president of the Hartford Yard Goats, said in a statement to NBC Connecticut.

Hartford officials said the city has not made a formal submission to have the Blue Jays play in the city.

Bronin said Thursday that he feels that the city could safely and responsibly host the Blue Jays for the shortened season and he thinks it would be a great thing for the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut.

"We would be thrilled to host them here and our doors are open," Bronin said.

There is no professional baseball at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford after Minor League Baseball cancelled the 2020 season due to the pandemic.

Instead, the Hartford Yard Goats have been making use of the park and the field by offering “Dinner on the Diamond” and “Rent the Field.”

Toronto opens the regular season on Friday at Tampa Bay. The home opener is scheduled for next Wednesday against the World Series champion Washington Nationals.

"Everybody would love to have a home game, but that might not be an option," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Wednesday evening. "Who knows? We could be playing games on the road the whole year. I've never gone through this, not with two days to go, not knowing where you're going to play home games."

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk said Tuesday the players were told Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore is a possibility.

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 MLB, 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 social distance is important.

On Friday, the Associated Press, citing a source, reported that the Blue Jays will play their home games in Buffalo amid the pandemic.

Bronin lauded Dunkin Donuts' Park.

"Dunkin' Donuts Park is a beautiful baseball park. It is in a lot of ways on a smaller scale, a major league style park for e minor league, a great minor league team," Bronin said.

He said games without fans in the stands would not replace the energy and enthusiasm of a typical Yard Goats game.

"In the meantime, if we could host a major league team in that beautiful facility and host all the teams that are coming through, we just think it would be a great thing for the city of Hartford," Bronin said.

He also spoke about the efforts the state has taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Blue Jays had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.

Rob Gillies, Marc Levy And Will Graves. Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Graves reported from Pittsburgh. Ian Harrison in Toronto also contributed.

Associated Press and NBC Connecticut
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