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Fans celebrate Blue Jays’ return

TORONTO — A sea of blue jerseys and T-shirts welcomed the Toronto Blue Jays back to the Rogers Centre on Friday as fans flocked to see the team play at home for the first time in nearly two years.

The crowd that lined up outside the stadium was abuzz with excitement, with many saying the Jays’ return — and the ability to watch them in person — felt like a step towards normalcy in the midst the COVID-19 pandemic, even though many wore masks.

“I think it’s important that these kind of games are back, it really builds morale,” said Sam Guyatt, 40, who attended Friday’s game with his wife and two children.

Jessica Smith said she and her friends were “super excited” to see the Jays play on home turf, where they were hosting the Kansas City Royals on Friday.

“It really feels like we’re back in Toronto again,” she said.

Joanne Aprile said her family has been going to Jays games for about a decade, noting her 10-year-old son, John, went to his first game when he was two and has become an ardent fan. It was important for him to be there for the team’s return, she added.

“Getting tickets was a bit hard this time due to high demand but we’re just excited to be here,” she said.

The Jays were allowed to come back to Toronto after the federal government granted them a national interest travel exemption.

The team hasn’t played at Rogers Centre since September 2019 because of pandemic measures, including the ban on travel between the U.S. and Canada.

The team kicked off this season hosting home games at its spring training site in Dunedin, Fla., before returning to the home of their triple-A affiliate earlier this summer.

The stadium remains under capacity restrictions, however, and team officials have said it can only accommodate about one-third of its usual maximum at this time.

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