The return of the Blue Jays home offers a long-absent normalcy, a sense of possibility – .

The return of the Blue Jays home offers a long-absent normalcy, a sense of possibility – .

TORONTO – Overly sentimental public thinking isn’t exactly Mark Shapiro’s jam. The president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays is analytically grounded and process-oriented, working systematically to prevent untrustworthy feelings from getting in the way of rational decision-making. The elimination of any madness from the method is anchored in its management ethics.
Therefore, the emotional tint in his comments about the Blue Jays’ imminent July 30 return to Rogers Center opened a window to the franchise’s 1.5-year-long record of dispossession. He explained how the meaning of home was “clearer” than ever, of a heightened appreciation for Toronto and Canada, of a greater sense of importance attached to having a place truly of their own. Poetic hair removal, perhaps, but the existence of vagrants imposed on the club by pandemic border restrictions has undoubtedly inflicted trauma on the entire organization, with the healing beginning with the first game at the Dome since September 29. 2019.

“I’m not someone who tends to think of moments as token or big,” Shapiro said during a Zoom discussion with the media on Saturday after his team’s contest with the Texas Rangers was postponed. by the rain. “I tend to think of travel more than any individual moment. Yet, right after that decision was made, my thoughts turned to what July 30th could be like and what it could mean. …

“I really have the impression that this is going to be a moment of celebration for the country, for the city, a moment that we are delighted to share. We’re excited that our players are feeling what it means to represent a country and how amazing Toronto is as a city. It’s one of those times, one of those days, that will truly live up to expectations.

A two-week scramble is already underway to get there.

Shapiro confirmed that Ontario views the convertible Rogers Center as an outdoor site, allowing a capacity of 15,000 people as part of Stage 3 of the province’s stimulus package, even though inclement weather forces the roof to be closed. The ability to keep some shutters open and increase airflow is part of the risk mitigation plan.

Ticket information, with season subscribers in priority, is expected early next week, along with details on pit sanitary rules and protocols. The dome was thoroughly cleaned after being largely unused for almost two years, new turf was installed and an improved sound system compared to the building’s original last year was ready for use .

Equipment at Sahlen Field in Buffalo is to be shipped north once the current homestand wraps up with Wednesday’s series final against the Boston Red Sox, while players are to strike leases and pack houses in. one city and start over in another eight days later.

Many people will put in a lot of effort in a compressed period of time.

The payoff is for the players to play for the first time in front of the team’s fans at the Rogers Center – like Hyun-Jin Ryu, George Springer, and Marcus Semien – and for staff members to return home after long periods away from their homes. loved ones on the road.

There will also be a financial advantage, as the Blue Jays are currently the last of the majors in attendance with 161,313. The 21 games in Dunedin, where they only drew 30,936 for an average of 1,473, are in large part. responsible. They average 6,861 fans in 19 Buffalo dates, a pace better than the Miami Marlins (6,464) and Oakland Athletics (6,394) and just below the Tampa Bay Rays (7,083).

Demand is expected to be strong in Toronto, although Shapiro said he only asked the club’s ticket modeling staff for the first time what the tax impact would look like.

“They’re still working on this, which I guess is the best answer to the question, financial considerations weren’t even a thought. They weren’t even a part of that, ”he said. “We will certainly do a little better by stepping back. We did well in Buffalo. Better in Buffalo than in Dunedin. It won’t begin to eclipse the magnitude of the losses we have suffered over the past two seasons. It’s about coming home. It’s about being where we should be. It’s about finding our fans. Finances are a tiny if not nonexistent part of the equation.

The benefits of the return to normal are expected everywhere, from performances on the pitch to trying to attract free agents in the off-season.

During All-Star Week, right-hander Kevin Gausman, who turned down what he called a “very competitive offer” from the Blue Jays to accept an $ 18.9 million qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants, said “it’s hard to want to sign somewhere. for several years when you don’t know what to expect, all the more so adding all the COVID (uncertainty). ”

“The fact that they’re in Buffalo has nothing to do with my decision, but after the fact you think about these things and it’s like maybe we made the right decision,” he said. added during an interview. “I love Toronto, it’s one of my favorite cities. I have always enjoyed playing it. He has a special place in my heart because I made my debut in Toronto.

Assuming the downward trajectory of the pandemic continues across the country and the Blue Jays continue to play Toronto uninterrupted next year, those doubts all go away and a boisterous Rogers Center crowd, even limited to 15,000, becomes a marketing tool.

“Look, the uncertainty was a challenge, but I still feel like we sold Toronto so confidently, aggressively and sold our situation and our situation,” Shapiro said. “Part of what we were selling was the environment, the culture, the atmosphere, the leadership, the teammates and the competitiveness of our team. These things have never changed, and neither has the people in this organization who have worked so hard to create a positive environment for our players. to make sure our players were as comfortable as they could be.

“But the bond that a player feels with the fans is important to be felt in person,” he added. “Not through messages and not by watching in any medium or listening in any medium. We missed it. We were missing this link. , that connection, that connection with our fan base. End this uncertainty, create this understanding, allow the players who made the decision to come here to see what an amazing city it is, make them feel what it means to represent more than a city and make them to feel the love and adulation of our fans, it will certainly facilitate our work in the next offseason.

It also makes it easier to remember what life was like and imagine what it might be like again.

The return of the Blue Jays is symbolic of a city, a province and a country emerging from months of intermittent confinement and cautiously moving towards normality. The possibility is also back, and with the trade deadline arriving hours before the Blue Jays hit the pitch, even Shapiro is indulging in a whim.

“From a human nature aspect, I’m not going to lie that thinking of ending this story with an October that we all remember would be the pinnacle,” he said. “How amazing it would be to think about the trip we’ve been through, the uncertainty of last season, playing a 60-game season at Buffalo, playing in three different houses this season, and finally coming back to the place.” where all of us believe in, care about and feel a connection and related to.

“Ending it by winning the last game might be one of the greatest baseball stories ever written. This is definitely the story I would like to be a part of. “

Shapiro and Blue Jays fans.


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