HARTFORD, July 23, 2020 – Tim Restall, president of the Hartford Yard Goats, is all in.
If the Toronto Blue Jays need a place to play their home games in the 2020 Major League Baseball season, they can play at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford.
“Given the state of Connecticut and the city of Hartford’s diligent work in combating the coronavirus, the availability of the award-winning Dunkin’ Donuts Park, and our centralized location in the Northeast, the Yard Goats would be honored to host the Toronto Blue Jays, if given the opportunity,” Restall said in a statement on Thursday.
The Blue Jays are looking for a home field for 30 games of a 60-game COVID-19 shortened season that begins this weekend.
Toronto has had two potential home fields rejected. The Canadian government didn’t give the Blue Jays permission to play home games at the Rogers Center in Toronto.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to make five trips to the United States and play in eight cities including three stops in Florida, where the contagious COVID-19 virus is still raging. Nearly 10,000 news cases were reported in Florida on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays made an arrangement with the Pittsburgh Pirates to play games at PNC Park. But that agreement was rejected by the state of Pennsylvania, too, due to COVID-19 concerns.
“To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams. We know that this virus does not discriminate, and can even make professional athletes very sick,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania in a statement shared with the Associated Press.
Published reports on Thursday said that the Blue Jays are working with the Orioles to play games at Camden Yards. That would also have to be approved by health officials in Maryland and Baltimore.
The Blue Jays, ironically, are trying to avoid the same fate that the 2016 edition of the Yard Goats endured – playing their entire season on the road. Because Dunkin’ Donuts Park wasn’t completed on time, Hartford played 71 of their Eastern League games on the road in 2016. The Yard Goats did host 19 games in Norwich at Dodd Stadium but never played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park that season.
The Blue Jays playing in Connecticut would also need approval from state and local health authorities. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont are interested in the idea according to published reports.
Bronin tweeted on Wednesday night that Hartford is ready to host Blue Jays games.
— Luke Bronin (@MayorBronin) July 22, 2020
Hartford Courant reporter Emily Brindley shared with her colleague Shawn McFarland that Lamont has had a few informal conversations with the Blue Jays.
Per @em_brindley, Gov. Ned Lamont said that they've had a couple informal conversations with the Blue Jays.
"I think the Yard Goats stadium would be a pretty nice place for them to be for the near term. We're going to try to work it out from a health care point of view." https://t.co/Zt0JOC6LuT
— Shawn McFarland (@McFarland_Shawn) July 23, 2020
No fans would be allowed in the ballpark to watch. Major League Baseball is hosting games across the country with no fans in attendance.
Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are restricting travelers from 31 other states where COVID-19 cases are surging to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they have tested negative in the previous three days.
Among the 31 states on the list are Maryland, Georgia and Florida and the Blue Jays have home games scheduled against the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins.
Toronto’s first home game is scheduled for July 29 against the Washington Nationals.
Ballpark Digest called Dunkin’ Donuts Park the best minor league ballpark at the Double A level in 2017 and 2018.
The ballpark, which can hold up to 6,850 fans, has a good reputation in the Colorado Rockies organization. The Yard Goats are Colorado’s Double A affiliate.
“A lot of people hear about the stadium but it’s just one of those things,” said infielder Ryan Metzler, who played parts of three seasons in Hartford (2017-19). “You walk out and see everything around you. It’s wow. I’m really playing professional baseball.
“This is a big-time stadium. It’s the atmosphere. There are two decks. You keep looking around and there is something more to see. It’s just one of things. You can’t stop looking.”
Outfielder Mylz Jones played more than 200 games with the Yard Goats over the past two seasons. “I would tell folks that every time we got back from a road trip, the stadium still looks brand new. And it was like seeing it for the first time. Because that is how spectacular it is.”
Some players on Toronto’s current roster have played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park before including infielders Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., and Cavan Biggio and outfielder Bo Bichette. Toronto’s Double A affiliate in the Eastern League is based out of Manchester, New Hampshire.