Blue Jays returning to Toronto — what happens to Trenton, NJ’s Thunder?
TRENTON — The convoluted, COVID-influenced reshuffle of New Jersey's minor league baseball landscape is taking another turn, with the Toronto Blue Jays finally cleared to play in their home country of Canada as of July 30.
As reported by MLB.com, the Jays have not played "north of the border" since the end of the 2019 season, playing their entire abbreviated 2020 home slate and about half their 2021 home games thus far at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, normally the home of their Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.
Toronto's commandeering of the Buffalo ballpark was no issue in 2020, as all minor league baseball games were canceled for the year. But with the minors resuming this season, the Bisons needed a place to go, and found a willing partner in Trenton.
All season long, the team that plays its home games at Trenton Thunder Ballpark has had a bit of a split personality, suiting up as the Thunder at home and the Bisons on the road. Although the Bisons have not yet said when they will return to Buffalo, a release from the Thunder on Monday indicated that the Triple-A season in Trenton will end July 25.
Prior to the Toronto-Buffalo arrangement, the Thunder had agreed to become one of the inaugural clubs in the new MLB Draft League, intended to showcase top prospects in advance of the amateur player draft. So, there has been yet another team playing as the Thunder this summer, at Rider University.
But now that the draft has actually taken place, the Draft League is getting ready to wrap up. That version of the Thunder will now move into Trenton Thunder Ballpark for its final homestand of the season, from Aug. 3 through Aug. 8, according to Monday's release.
Some of these changes were set in motion well before the COVID-19 pandemic, when the New York Yankees ended their affiliation with Trenton following the 2019 season and moved their Double-A franchise to Bridgewater, pairing with the Somerset Patriots and leaving Trenton without a team for the first time since the Thunder began play in 1994.
Prior to their long association with the Yankees, the Thunder had been affiliated with the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.