The Toronto Blue Jays will again use Buffalo's Sahlen Field for scheduled home games beginning later this baseball season. To make way for their Major League Baseball partner, the hometown Bisons are announcing they'll call Trenton, NJ "home" as it prepares to open its 2021 season.
The continued shutdown of the Canadian border forces the Jays to again need an alternative home. It used Sahlen Field in Major League Baseball's shortened 2020 season.
The big league team is playing its first home dates of the 2021 season in Dunedin, FL, where its spring training facilities are located. But in anticipation of hotter Florida weather - and with hope the Canadian border may reopen later this year - the Jays plan to move closer to home.
Buffalo's ballpark underwent several capital projects and adjustments last year - paid for by the Jays organization - to help it meet Major League Baseball facility standards, or come as close as possible. Among the examples, locker room facilities were expanded in the ground level and concourses fans would normally use were converted to weight and workout spaces. A temporary facility was constructed to serve as the visiting team's facilities. The Jays also invested in improved stadium lighting.
Fans were not admitted to last year's games, but this year, New York State is permitting limited numbers of spectators to sporting event. That raises the question: how may they once again create more space for the teams while also letting some fans into the ballpark? Bisons General Manager Anthony Sprague is hopeful that fans can once again be welcomed inside Sahlen Park for baseball, whether that be for the Bisons, or the Major League Blue Jays.
"We're gonna make these decisions as we get closer to potential games in June for fans. What those numbers are going to be? What procedures? And when we're going to put tickets on sale for for baseball here at Saheln Field," said Sprague. "The reason for that is we've talked about it the second you put one person in one seat, there's a ripple effect that is so great. We want to make sure we're making the best decision that we can possibly make, as close as we can to when games are so we can fit as many people in the ballpark safely"
Sahlen Field will also be the recipient of another round of upgrades thanks to the Blue Jays. This year, upgrades from the parent organization will take things further, expanding both clubhouses, installing an off-field bullpen, new training facilities for players, and other improvements.
"We have had tremendous government support over the years from from the city in providing capital money to keep our ballpark safe and keep it as a great place, and and the Rich's have invested millions of dollars over the years to do the same," said Mike Buczkowski, President of Rich Baseball Operarions. "And now we have a partnership with the Blue Jays that's allowing that to continue, to bring us to the next era of Buffalo Bisons baseball."
The Trenton Thunder, a former minor league franchise which became a collegiate summer league club under Major League Baseball's minor league realignment, announced its role Friday morning as the hosts of the Bisons this summer. It is being reported the Bisons will use the Thunder name and colors for home games while embracing their usual brand on the road. In addition, Bisons General Manager Anthony Sprague said the team will lean on staff from Trenton's ownership group to run day-to-day operations of the Bisons.
“For the most part they're going to handle everything tickets, you know actual grounds crew running of the actual games, and we're still in discussion with them on what else what other help they need," Sprague said. "We need to see if we're going to send some clubhouse guys to go there to help out and assist. But the majority of the work and the heavy lift will be done by Trenton there. They'll work directly with with the Blue Jays player development staff.”
The Bisons, who compete at baseball's Triple-A level, have served as the Jays' top minor league partner since 2012. In February, both teams signed a 10-year player development agreement, extending their partnership further.