The grounds crew at Sahlen Field is hard work, and while the Bisons won't hit the diamond this summer they're still preparing for the possibility the Toronto Blue Jays make Buffalo their second home this season.
Toronto is also considering PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla. after the Canadian federal government decided against letting the Jays play in Toronto this season over health concerns with the team travelling back and forth from the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, D, wants the Blue Jays to land in the Queen City.
"Tremendous love for the Blue Jays in Buffalo. We've been their Triple-A affiliate since 2013," Brown told Toronto radio station Sporstnet 590 The Fan. "We have flattened the curve in New York state. It's a very safe place to play."
While Sahlen Field has the geographic advantage of being just across the border and the Bisons serving as the Blue Jays' top minor league affiliate, it also has some drawbacks. Sources told Spectrum News the lighting will need upgrades. The bullpens for pitchers to warm up are down the first and third base lines — not the normal spot in a big league ballpark. And the clubhouse and dugouts aren't up to major league standards and need more room for physical distancing, even without fans in the seats.
The Bisons say they're exploring the best ways to adapt the available spaces, echoed by Mayor Brown, who said the Blue Jays have been discussing those plans with the Bisons, not the City of Buffalo, to this point.
"We would have to do more to get the stadium up to major league standards," Brown said. "The Buffalo Bisons are doing everything they can to become a viable option for the Toronto Blue Jays."
Blue Jays CEO/President Mark Shapiro said Saturday their spring training facility in Dunedin is the most ready for play, but coronavirus concerns in Florida are problematic.
The Jays are considering sharing PNC Park in Pittsburgh with the Pirates as the players push to be in a major league stadium.
"And what we're using to frame that decision is player health, competitiveness, and the infrastructure that allows us to operate in both a safe environment and an environment that's up to major league standards," Shapiro said.
Whatever the Blue Jays' decision is, they have to hustle. Opening Day is just a few days away on July 24, and the home opener in Buffalo or someplace else is set for July 29.