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Camden Yards still an option for Blue Jays’ temporary home this season

Camden Yards will be empty on Friday as the Orioles’ Opening Day assignment brings them to Boston. It’s possible that once they return, they won’t have the ballpark all to themselves.

Discussions remain underway for Camden Yards to be the temporary 2020 home of the Toronto Blue Jays, according to an industry source. The Blue Jays aren’t allowed by the Canadian government to play in their home at the Rogers Centre due to concerns about teams coming from the United States where the coronavirus pandemic has not been handled as well and cases are spiking in some places.

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The Orioles declined to comment, while the office of Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gov. Larry Hogan’s office deferred to the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but Hogan told the Associated Press there have been “discussions with the Orioles” about the situation.

“I don’t know the final details of that,” Hogan said. “Obviously, we’re watching our numbers very carefully every day. We’re concerned about the spikes in other states.”

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In a statement, the Maryland Stadium Authority said it and the Orioles “are discussing the Toronto Blue Jays’ request to use [Oriole] Park at Camden Yards for the 2020 season.”

Multiple reports out of Toronto earlier this week and, more recently, ESPN, initially cited Baltimore as a possible place for the Blue Jays to set up for the 2020 season. In the interim, the Blue Jays set their sights on Pittsburgh as their primary option but ultimately didn’t get permission from Pennsylvania health department despite the Pirates’ accommodations.

According to an industry source, the Orioles are trying to help the Blue Jays as best as they can but understand the decision goes beyond them and thus are unsure what will come of it.

The players are said to want to play in a major league facility, with infrastructure issues at Toronto’s Triple-A site in Buffalo and a high coronavirus caseload in Florida where their spring home of Dunedin is making those options less appealing.

Baltimore on Wednesday announced a mask mandate for all public spaces, and the White House warned that the city could become a coronavirus hotspot without intervention.

The setup at Camden Yards has come in for plenty of praise from players and staff for the level of detail that the team went to for protections from coronavirus. The Orioles had two players report to camp and test positive — outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. — but none since. Both are healthy and back with the team.

Manager Brandon Hyde has been grateful to the ownership group, the Orioles’ new senior leadership team and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel, who spearheaded the health protocols.

”We noticed initially when we first got here all the time and effort that was put into that, and how it was really thoughtful with how they were treating us with our safety and our health first and foremost,” Hyde said last week.

“Our guys are really appreciative of that. We haven’t had hardly any complaints, if any, about how we’re going about things. I think it’s running ridiculously smooth with all the things we’re doing every day that are so much different, it’s as smooth as it can possibly be and that really starts with the leadership of this organization and what they have put in place for us. Our players have bought into that and followed suit.”

The safety measures include physically distanced clubhouses that separated pitchers and hitters through camp, exclusively to-go meals in the club’s dining room, abundant hand sanitizers and masks, and tents in the stands to allow players to be physically distant during games.

Inviting Toronto into the mix would provide its own challenges. According to a report from The Athletic, the Blue Jays would not be able to use the Orioles’ home or visiting clubhouse and could be made to construct a new one somewhere on site.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.

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