Toronto Blue Jays President Speaks to Jays From the Couch about Grass at the Rogers Centre

Jays From the Couch went to the top to find a number of things, one of which is whether the Toronto Blue Jays will be playing on natural grass

The Toronto Blue Jays will be the only team in MLB playing on artificial turf when The Rays get their new stadium, for which the land deal has been approved. In all honesty, the turf is but one item on the list of things that are wrong about Tropicana Field. But, that’s not the point. Toronto still hosts a behemoth of a stadium that is a concrete marvel.

When it was constructed, SkyDome was meant to be an amazing feat of ingenuity that would house every possible event under one roof. It wasn’t meant for one purpose. Whether or not the stadium can be considered a disappointment compared to the ambition is debatable. Perhaps the mere $25M price tag that Rogers paid to obtain the building speaks to that idea. It was a far cry from the $600M it cost to build.

With a movement across baseball to focus on eye catching, fan experience focused stadiums, the SkyDome started to look out of place. With newer and more ingenious designs coming out, people were starting to see that grass and a roof can coexist. So, it wasn’t long before there were calls for Toronto to make the switch to provide a more natural environment for baseball, particularly since baseball is the primary focus of the building.

As his swan song, Paul Beeston left a gift for the people of Toronto. He declared that he had commissioned a study to investigate the feasibility of installing grass in the concrete dome. Obviously, this brought a lot of excitement and buzz around the possibility of watching a major league baseball game in Toronto the way nearly everyone else around the league does. This brought a whole host of new questions that Beeston wouldn’t be around to have to answer.

When word broke about this study, it wasn’t difficult to speculate the many issues that would need to be addressed. There is the obvious quandary of how to get grass to grow in a building that has a closed roof for at least 7 months out of the year, letting no light in, which is kind of important for grass. Then, the issue of proper drainage would have to be addressed. How does the team take on the task of retrofitting a building that was never designed to allow water to flow? Then, what about the condensation and potential mold from growing a plant product in a relatively airtight environment? Lots of questions that have had to be figured out. How would the Mark Shapiro possibly take this on?

Recently, Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt and Jeff Blair opined that there is no way grass was going to happen because of the issues. They seemed very confident, but didn’t say that they were told this by anyone. Well, recently, Shapiro joined Jays From the Couch Radio and he talked to us about a lot of things, one of which was the “grass project”. While you really should listen to the whole interview, here’s what he had to say on the subject of grass:

If it had not been a historical issue for the Blue Jays, anyone sitting in my chair would have ascertained that in the scope of things we’re looking at this is probably not realistic. Out of respect to what a focal point it has been here historically, we spent the time to understand what it would cost to retrofit a building that has no drainage, that was not meant to have grass and how we would actually install grass and keep it alive with the roof never being open…what it would involve in year to year maintenance…
I can tell you, when you start to get the numbers — you can tell by the way I’m talking about it — that would begin to not necessarily be a small part of a renovation, but grass would have to be one of the focal points of the entire renovation to make that happen. I’m just saying that when it comes down to looking at the menu of alternatives, if there’s three different things we can do versus grass, I’m going to make sure we look at those three things and see what they mean to fans and fan experience.

So, basically, Shapiro has laid out the final word on grass at the Rogers Centre. It’s not going to happen. While Brunt & Blair may have been correct in their opinions, having the final commentary on the matter makes things more clear. Essentially, the only reason it was still being “considered” (was it really?) is out of respect for Beeston and those he got excited. After weighing the cost (and likely comparing it to the payoff), it is something that the new regime is not interested in pursuing.

Immediately, fans might resort to pleading for the grass by using the players. If management won’t give them real grass, maybe they will for the high income commodities. Well, Shapiro doesn’t really see the turf impacting the health of his players negatively.

I can tell you that the turf is almost a non-issue for players now, as you probably know. It’s more of a historic issue based on the old turf and how bad that was. Having watched games, I don’t think about the turf very often with the dirt infield. I did before, but not with the dirt infield. It plays pretty true” When asked about concern over guys like Troy Tulowitzki being hampered by playing on turf, he said, “I don’t think so. I think it’s so very minimal on the dirt infield. It’s minimal at best, if at all. It’s more of a historic issue. It definitely was an issue 6–7 years ago

Well, if there’s no concern to current players, maybe there is for those potentially coming in. Every offseason folks love to dream on who could be available and obtained. Anyone with an injury history comes with the caveat of ‘Yeah, but how will the turf impact that injured/aging body?’. I asked Shapiro about this directly. Is he concerned about players fearing the possibility of playing on the turf?

No. I’ve never heard the conversation mentioned with a player

There you have it. As far as the Toronto Blue Jays front office goes, there is not going to be real grass in the Rogers Centre. They have other renovations they would rather focus on. The current turf is not believed to negatively impact those playing on it, nor is it expected to be a factor when negotiating with potential new players. Until it becomes more of an issue, don’t expect grass in the dome.

*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC



Originally published at on October 26, 2017.