COVID-19 border restrictions meant the Canadians needed a U.S. base and couldn’t use Nat Bailey Stadium.

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The Vancouver Canadians are going to share the Hillsboro Hops’ ballpark to start the minor league season and that partnership shouldn’t be a surprise.

C’s president Andy Dunn admitted a few weeks ago that his Toronto Blue Jays’ farm team could need a U.S. home base to at least begin the campaign because of border restrictions brought about by COVID-19.

On Monday, the C’s announced they’re going to play home games for the time being out of the Hops’ Ron Tonkin Field, which is a 20-minute drive northwest of Portland, Ore. Ron Tonkin is one of the newer parks in the six-team high-A West League, a facility built in 2013 that Dunn says has all the amenities to help his team with the various COVID-19 protocols that will need to be in place.

It features artificial turf, which you would think would be a necessity with two teams playing home games there.As well, the C’s and the Hops connect. The Yakima Bears moved to Hillsboro for the 2013 campaign, and Hops president and general manager K.L. Wombacher credits the C’s and Dunn specifically with helping getting that transfer done.

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The 2021 schedules for Vancouver and Hillsboro mirror each other, with the C’s slated for home games when the Hops are on the road and vice versa. Suffice it to say, this has been in the works for some time and needed some give-and-take.

The C’s are slated to start the season May 4 on the road against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Their home-opener is set for May 11, versus the Spokane Indians.

Hillsboro is a farm club of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Yes, we have a great relationship with the C’s,” Wombacher explained in an email. “This is going to be a challenging year for all of us navigating COVID-19 protocols but for them this will be much more challenging not being able to play in their home ballpark.

“We just want to be good teammates and help them make the most of a tough situation that’s mostly out of their control. We are eternally grateful to Andy Dunn for playing a big role in our team moving to Hillsboro in 2012 so this is a chance on a minor scale to repay him so to speak.

“It will be great for our community and especially the hospitality industry that’s had a very tough year.

“For the sake of their fans, we hope the border opens up soon so their community can benefit from the return of C’s baseball.”

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COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 minor league baseball schedule, meaning the C’s last game in front of their Nat Bailey Stadium faithful came on Aug. 30, 2019. Guessing when The Nat might see a C’s game next is currently a fool’s errand.

“We’re taking it on a month-by-month basis right now,” Dunn said. “When the protocols for us to come play at home start to become outlined, that’s when we’ll start making decisions. There are greater things going on right now than whether the local minor league baseball team gets to play at home.

“It’s not good. It’s not fun. But these are the times that we are in, and we’re going to make the best of what we’ve got.”

Donnie Murphy, the former major league infielder who was named the manager of the C’s by the Jays, said earlier this month that “the goal is to get back to Vancouver at some point this season.”

“The biggest challenge, no matter where we are playing, is trying to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible,” he continued. “There are going to be guidelines and protocols. We’ll have to find ways to get used to them. Some of the guys will have gone through it with the instructional league in the fall and so they’ll know what to expect.”

The Hops announced on their website March 17 that they’ve been approved to welcome fans to home games at “25 per cent capacity.”

Ron Tonkin Field lists capacity at 4,500.

The Jays said last month that they’re going to play their first two home stands out of their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla. Toronto played most of its home games out of their triple-A farm club’s stadium in Buffalo last season.

Jays president Mark Shapiro told reporters then: “Some combination of Dunedin, Buffalo and Toronto is likely how we’re approaching the season. With flexibility, certainly factoring in public health and what’s best for competitiveness and our players, as being the main drivers of those decisions.

SEwen@postmedia.com

twitter:@SteveEwen

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