Safe at home? Blue Jays end nomadic journey in Buffalo

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FILE - In this July 24, 2020, file photo, signage at Sahlen Field, home of the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate, in Buffalo, N.Y., is viewed. The Blue Jays will walk onto the field Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, as the host team for the first time in 2020. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

The signage is familiar. And well, really, that's about it. But hey, it beats nothing. Or, to be more precise for the Toronto Blue Jays, it beats seeing their name on the bottom of a scoreboard in a visiting stadium for a game that is “home” in name only.

Baseball's nomads will walk onto the field at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday night as the host team for the first time in 2020. Canada's government wouldn't let the Blue Jays hold games at Rogers Centre in Toronto, fearful of outside entities coming into the city amid a pandemic. Pittsburgh offered to let the Blue Jays play at PNC Park when the Pirates were on the road, but Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wouldn't sign off on it.

That left Buffalo, which last hosted a regular-season Major League Baseball game in 1915 when the Buffalo Blues finished sixth in the eight-team Federalist League.

The wait hasn't been quite as long for the Blue Jays. Toronto spent the first two-plus weeks bouncing from Tampa to Washington to Atlanta to Boston waiting for preparations at 16,600-seat Sahlen Field (all but a few of which will be empty) to be complete.

Yes, it's going to take some getting used to, no matter how many times the familiar Blue Jays logo is splashed on everything from bathroom sinks to elevator doors to dugouts. Instead of a Marriott situated over the right-center field fence, Ellicott Square — which served as the backdrop for all the hotel scenes in the 1984 classic film “The Natural” — sits across the street.

“We haven’t played in Buffalo, so it’s still a road trip it feels like,” said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo, whose team is 5-8 after hopscotching up and down the East Coast. “But I’m going to say after the first couple of games, then it kind of becomes our home ballpark.”

A ballpark, by the way, that is not the one in which Robert Redford's Roy Hobbs busted out all the lights in the climactic scene of “The Natural.” The movie was shot at War Memorial Coliseum, which gave way to Sahlen Field in the late 1980s, though you could forgive Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly — whose team will be the visitors on Tuesday — for getting things mixed up.

“I’d never been to Buffalo in my life until this last winter," said Mattingly, whose team dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak two weeks ago that disrupted its own season. "I think about the Bills, and then ‘The Natural.’ Are we playing in that same stadium?”