Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The Toronto Blue Jays will play home games in Dunedin, Fla., to start the 2021 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in place at the United States-Canada border, the team said Thursday.
"Like all Canadians, we had hoped to see improvements in the public health outlook as we neared the baseball season," the team said in a news release.
"With the ongoing Canada-U.S. border closure, the Blue Jays have made the difficult decision to play the first two homestands of the 2021 regular season at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, with the hopes of a return to play at Rogers Centre as soon as possible."
Blue Jays pitchers and catchers reported to Dunedin this week for spring training. The rest of the team is scheduled to report next week.
The Blue Jays will host the Los Angeles Angels from April 8 to 11 to start the regular season. They then will host the Texas Rangers from April 12 to 14, Washington Nationals on April 27 and 28 and Atlanta Braves from April 30 to May 2.
The Blue Jays then go on the road and don't have another scheduled home game until May 14. The team will reevaluate plans for a home venue after its first two homestands.
The Blue Jays started last season with home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., the home of their Triple-A affiliate. The Blue Jays played 2020 games in Buffalo because the Canadian government did not grant them permission to play at their home stadium, Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"Next to the health and safety of our fans, players, and staff, our top priority is returning home to play on Canadian soil as soon as it is safe to do so," the Blue Jays said.
"The club has been actively working through plans for what a safe return to Rogers Centre could look like, while also scenario planning alternatives."
The Blue Jays are the only Canada-based franchise among MLB's 30-team field.