Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro says 15,000 fans will be allowed in the stands when the team returns to Toronto later this month.
Ottawa approved the Jays’ bid to return to Canada on Friday, granting the club a national interest travel exemption that will allow it to host games at Rogers Centre starting on July 30.
Shapiro said the team is still finessing ticketing details but has received approval to have 15,000 people at games — about 30 per cent of the stadium’s 49,286-person capacity.
He said fans and players alike will notice renovations that have been made at Rogers Centre, including new turf, a new sound system, new batting cages and cosmetic changes to the 100-level concourse.
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Shapiro said it’s been 670 days since the Blue Jays last played a “true home game,” and the past two years have been difficult for the team.
“670 days — that’s how long it’s been since we played a true home game,” Shapiro said.
“The meaning of what home is. Home is Toronto and home is Canada. For our organization and for our players. It’s more crystal clear than it ever has been — a greater sense of appreciation, a greater sense of meaning of what it can be for a competitive drive towards a playoff spot, and really just grateful that we have a chance to be back in front of our fans and part of the recovery for the city, province, and country.”
Shapiro then described how excited he is for some of the team’s players and staff who have not had a chance to experience a game in Toronto.
“I think about Marcus Semien, Hyun Jin Ryu, George Springer — players who made a decision to come to the Toronto Blue Jays because Toronto was a big part of that decision,” he said. “Canada was a big part of that decision, and yet they’ve never played a game as a hometown player.”
Shapiro then shared his visions for a dream ending to the tumultuous season.
“Thinking about ending this story with an October we all remember would be the ultimate,” he said. “How incredible would it be to think about the journey we’ve experienced, the uncertainty of last season, playing a 60-game season in Buffalo, playing in three different homes for this season, and finally getting back to the place we all believe in, care about, and feel a bond and tie to, to end that with winning the last game would be one of the greatest baseball stories ever written. That’s a story I’d like to be a part of.”
The Jays played last season’s 60-game condensed schedule out of Buffalo, N.Y., and started this year’s campaign in Dunedin, Fla., before relocating to Buffalo.
Rangers-Jays in Buffalo rained out; doubleheader Sunday
The game between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday was postponed because of rain.
It will be made up as part of an afternoon doubleheader on Sunday, with both games scheduled for seven innings. The Rangers said left-hander Kolby Allard will start the opener, followed by Mike Foltynewicz. The Blue Jays will have left-handers work both games, with Hyun Jin Ryu taking the mound for the opener and Steven Matz working the nightcap.
Toronto entered Saturday in third place in the AL East, eight games behind first-place Boston. Texas has lost seven of 10 and is last in the AL West.