The Toronto Blue Jays are making additional tickets available for next week's final homestand, hopeful that government regulations will be loosened to allow for an expansion of the current Rogers Centre capacity limit of 15,000 for the six remaining home games and any post-season home games should the team qualify.
Canada's lone Major League Baseball club is in the thick of a playoff race as the regular season winds down. The Blue Jays entered play Thursday a half-game behind the New York Yankees, who hold the second wild-card spot in the American League.
"The Blue Jays are in the final days of a heated post-season wild-card race and need fan support more than ever to create the home field advantage that our fans and team deserve down the stretch," the team said in a statement.
"We have been working closely with the premier’s office, the chief medical officer of health, and (Ontario Sports) Minister (Lisa) MacLeod’s office on increasing ballpark capacity safely, in line with all public health protocols."
After the Blue Jays close out their road trip this week in Minnesota, they will have an off-day Monday ahead of Tuesday's opener of a critical three-game series against the Yankees. Toronto will close out the campaign with three games against the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
The American League wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 5. The winner advances to a best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 7.
Messages left with the Public Health Agency of Canada and MacLeod's office were not immediately returned. A message left with the premier's office was forwarded to the office of Health Minister Christine Elliott.
"(Chief medical officer of health) Dr. (Kieran) Moore will provide an update on his recommended changes to capacity limits in specific settings where proof of vaccination is required once they are finalized and approved by cabinet," press secretary Alexandra Hilkene said in an email.
Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays received clearance to return home in mid-July.
The team played its 2021 Rogers Centre opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays were approved to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue at about one-third of the stadium's regular 49,000-seat capacity.
Team president Mark Shapiro said the retractable roof would be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures had been taken to ensure proper ventilation.
The Blue Jays played last year's condensed schedule at the home field of their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at its spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., before moving back to Buffalo.
In their statement Thursday, the Blue Jays did not say how many additional tickets would be made available for their final six home games. A glance at the team's online sales seating chart appears to show that an estimated 30-35,000 tickets could be sold per game.
Tickets could be purchased in the stadium's 500 level for the first time this season and additional seats were available in the 100 and 200 levels. If government regulations do not allow for a capacity expansion, impacted ticket purchasers will be issued a refund, the team said.
"The Blue Jays are adhering to all public health guidelines and in addition, are requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older entering Rogers Centre," the statement said. "A negative COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions."
The Blue Jays reached the playoffs last season but were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wild-card series. It was Toronto's first post-season appearance since 2016.
Toronto's last World Series title came in 1993.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2021.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press