Toronto Blue Jays wow through upgrades to Sahlen Field at Buffalo’s new ‘home’

BUFFALO, NY – It took a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic; prohibits gambling in Canada, Pennsylvania and Maryland; millions of dollars; and lighting loan from the “Field of Dreams” for Buffalo to host their first baseball game in the major leagues in more than a century.

Sahlen Field will officially become the new home away from home for the Toronto Blue Jays when ace Hyun-Jin Ryu throws the first pitch Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins. It will be Buffalo’s first major league game since 1915, when the Buffalo Blues played in the Federal League.

The changes at Sahlen Field, Toronto’s Triple-A branch home ballpark since 2013, are evident. The “Green Monster” color that adorned most of the ballpark is anything but a distant memory, with most areas now adorned with Blue Jays logos, decorated and painted in Jays blue, and reimbursed for ballplayers and staff.

“The biggest mouth-opening, jaw-dropping experience I had was to see [the ballpark] of the main road. What they did to mark it and make it feel like the home of Toronto’s Blue Blue team … and it really is, “general manager Ross Atkins said at a video conference call ahead of Tuesday’s game. It’s kind of clawing to see the difference. It’s the best socially distant space I’ve ever seen – and now I’ve seen Toronto, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa, Boston. “

The service level at Sahlen Field, which previously cared for the house and visited clubhouses and batting cabins, was redone to create a corpse at the Jays clubhouse in Toronto. Toronto even named the third base site as the official home team in honor of the team’s set-up at the Rogers Center.

Both field clubhouses will be used by the Jays as they were expanded to accommodate socially distant closets, adorned with chairs that made the 98-mile journey from Toronto. So did drums by Charlie Montoyo, office decor and family paintings – which he was pleasantly surprised to find in his coin Buffalo office – all in an attempt to make the underage ballpark feel right at home.

Visiting teams will use a massive tent in the parking lot on the right field as the clubhouse for visitors. The tent area, which is fully equipped as a clubhouse space with training, locker room and office facilities, was built with a blueprint similar to the one MLB planned for the “Field of Dreams” game in Iowa. Visitor teams will also have access to office and clubhouse space in the suite area at Sahlen Field.

“After seeing Boston, I think it really helped us here,” said Atkins, referring to the inspiration the team has drawn from the improvements at Fenway Park. “It helped us think a little differently about things. The ways they were challenged are similar to the ways we will be challenged here. The thinking about maximizing competition space and creating large, open areas where “We could, and branding it was in a way that made it feel completely different. I’m pretty sure our players, when they came here, they did not recognize it.”

The Blue Jays call Buffalo home after the Canadian federal government rejected a plan for the team to use the Rogers Center in Toronto this pandemic-shortened 60-game season over fears of widening the spread of COVID-19. The Blue Jays reached out to the Orioles and Pirates to use their facilities, but state governments in Pennsylvania and Maryland rejected the proposals.

Since there was no major baseball infrastructure in the league at Sahlen Park, the Blue Jays had to foot the bill to make massive improvements not only to the facilities for players and staff, but also to the field lighting and terrain. The grass behind the house plate and as extended to more than 20 feet from the surface had to be replaced. Other changes included dugout extensions and blackening of the bottom 15 feet of the scoreboard to protect the eye from contamination.

Temporary light vehicles will also be deployed during games to achieve that on MLB and broadcasting standards. Those trucks would be part of the extra lighting measures used by MLB for their now-canceled “Field of Dreams” game between the White Sox and the Cardinals in Iowa. The game, a tribute to the famous 1989 film of the same name, was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19.

“They’ve done a good job,” Atkins said when discussing the lighting improvements. “The best test will be tonight, but we feel good about it. We know it will not be Rogers Center that has exceptional lighting, but we feel good about it. Our players were in it last night. They felt like it was a major upgrade, and I’m excited to see how it plays out tonight. “

“We all walked around and talked about how we could not recognize the place,” said first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ESPN. Guerrero cut .343 / .420 / .593 with an OPS of 1,013 in 39 games over two short stints at Buffalo in 2018 and 2019.

The Jays’ famous young trio of Guerrero, Cavan Biggio (.312, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs in 43 games at Buffalo), and Bo Bichette (.275, 8 HRs, 32 RBIs in 56 games) all played handball with the Bisons. Many other current Blue Jays also know Buffalo, having played in the minor or in rehab games.

‘I was there [Randal] Grichuk, [Lourdes] Gurriel en [Anthony] Alford takes BP [Monday], and we were all amazed at the clubhouse size and the field conditions, even at all the changes in colors, “said Guerrero. It’s nothing like the ballpark I played a few years ago. Looks like nothing less than a minor league ballpark right now. And it’s just fun to have a house. “