The countdown has begun and with it the excitement of Major League Baseball finally being played in Toronto for the first time in what seems like an eternity.
One day after the Blue Jays got the green light, club CEO Mark Shapiro tried to shed additional light without getting too deep into the weeds, knowing full well clarity on the various issues surrounding the team’s July 30 return will be unpacked in the coming days, if not weeks.
“I know it’s going to be special,” Shapiro said during a Zoom call. “I really feel it will be a celebratory moment for the country, for the city.
“It is one of those moments, one of those days, that will live up to the expectations.”
Think of any Opening Day to usher in a baseball season and multiple it tenfold, perhaps more.
July 30 looms as one of the biggest sporting days Toronto has seen in recent memory.
The day also coincides with MLB’s trade deadline.
The Jays have been active and promise to be even more active in the weeks leading up to deadline day.
Preventing runs and helping the bullpen remain the cornerstone areas to address with an eye for the now and beyond this season.
Ticketwise, Shapiro assured one and all that the club will soon get in contact with the team’s subscribers.
Upward of 15,000 fans have been approved to attend.
There will be a modified quarantine for unvaccinated visiting players, details that will all be made clear next week, Shapiro said.
The roof at Rogers Centre will remain open unless there’s inclement weather, Shapiro added.
When closed, Shapiro said there is a plan for increased circulation.
New turf, a new sound system and new batting cages will greet fans and players alike when the boys of summer make their way to Toronto for the first time since Sept. 29, 2019.
During his Zoom call, Shapiro was grateful to the various levels of government and public health, while lauding the folks in Dunedin and Buffalo who provided shelter for a club that was rendered homeless because of COVID-19 and a closed border.
He insisted money was never a consideration.
It’s not exactly ideal for a big-league club to be playing in minor-league venues, especially when visiting teams receive more cheers than jeers.
The timing of the team’s return is more than opportune.
When July 30 rolls around, the Jays will be back in Toronto for a 10-game homestand smack dab in the middle of a playoff race.
During that homestand, the Boston Red Sox, which currently reside atop the AL East, will be in town.
“It’s as big of a competitive swing as you can have,” said Shapiro, knowing full well what it will mean to players and fans in Toronto when crucial games against teams such as Boston are contested in the city.
Shapiro used the word “monumental” when doing the math of a 10-game homsetand in the context of a 81-game home slate and the timing of the Jays’ return.
The ultimate end to this wild story of a team that will essentially play home games in three different cities in one season would be for the Jays to win their final game in October.
“Maybe one of the greatest stories ever written,” Shapiro said. “It’s certainly a story I want to be part of.”
NEW FACES COMING SOON
Assuming he isn’t traded prior to the deadline, the return of the Jays to Toronto will mark the first time someone such as Marcus Semien, an all-star second baseman, will play in front of a home crowd at Rogers Centre.
Ditto for the likes of Hyun-jin Ryu and George Springer, two high-profiled free agents the franchise doled out $230 million US for.
It won’t be the first time fans will see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in person, but it does mark the first time fans in the city will see Vlad Jr. at his very best.
In Friday’s lopsided win over Texas, Vlad Jr. belted two home runs to raise his season total to 30.
At 22, Vlad Jr. is the sixth-youngest player in the American League.
“It was only a matter of time before he started to do this at the big-league level,” Cavan Biggio said. “He went through a big learning experience in the big leagues, where most guys they struggle in the minor leagues, learn a lot about themselves and learn how to make adjustments.
“He was doing it on the biggest stage.”
Added skipper Charlie Montoyo of the kid: “He’s one of the best players in baseball. He showed it in the all-star game (where Vlad Jr. was named MVP) and he’s showing it again.
“He didn’t really have a break. He flew to Colorado, did all the stuff he needed to do and then he goes off (Friday night) again. He’s been fun to watch. And that’s what I like about going back to Toronto now. The fans in Toronto get to watch one of the best players in baseball, and of course the rest of the group, but Vladdy’s been amazing.”
Saturday’s scheduled game at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field was called off due to rain.
The Jays and Rangers are slated to play a double dip Sunday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.