The Blue Jays’ radio stations will not be back on the road this season

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Unlike last year, the Toronto Blue Jays radio rights holder will not resume in-person broadcasts of away games once the team advances to the playoffs.

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The decision was confirmed by a Sportsnet spokesperson via email.

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The station went long-distance in 2022 before switching back to traditional, face-to-face street broadcasts for most of the second half of last season.

In 2023, radio stations reverted to a pandemic-like system, calling out away games while watching the action on a screen at the Sportsnet studio in Toronto.

“We will continue our current approach to the regular season,” said Jason Jackson, senior communications manager at Sportsnet. “We have not yet finalized our plans for the postseason.”

The Blue Jays are in the middle of the American League playoff race. Toronto entered Friday’s game with a record of 77-63 and a half-game lead over Texas for the final wild-card spot.

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Due to health concerns and travel restrictions, long-distance radio transmissions were the norm in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels are the only Major League Baseball teams that still use long-distance calling.

It wasn’t clear why Sportsnet decided to stick with remote broadcasts this season. Interview requests for play-by-play key man Ben Wagner and Sportsnet’s Brass folks were turned down by the broadcaster.

In an era of smaller newsrooms and tighter budgets, many Canadian media outlets have, to varying degrees, restricted street coverage of sports teams.

“The easiest thing to trim is travel,” said Mike Naraine, assistant professor of sport management at Brock University. “We’re going to stop sending people onto the streets, we’re going to cut coverage here and there. It sacrifices the end experience for the consumer.”

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Sportsnet is part of Rogers Sports & Media, a subsidiary of Rogers Communications Inc. The Toronto-based telecoms giant also owns the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre.

A previous request to speak with senior vice president Greg Sansone on various sports and broadcasting topics – including Blue Jays coverage – was also turned down.

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“Greg just wants the work done across the Sportsnet network to speak for itself,” network spokeswoman Meghann Cox said in an email.

Naraine said without on-site presence at matches, proper analysis can be more difficult, as can the ability to read between the lines and observe body language.

“Being there and being able to take in the environment and all the variables as much as possible, that’s what gets lost at the end of the day,” he said.

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“Regardless of the medium, it’s about the ability to critically analyze the crucial key moments that shift and change.”

In addition to audio streaming options, Blue Jays radio broadcasts can be heard across Canada on Sportsnet Radio Network affiliates and Toronto-based flagship all-sports station Fan590.

Remote radio broadcasts may involve a die roll. Unforeseen audio difficulties or problems with the television transmission can sometimes affect the need for action.

Last April, a studio fire alarm was responsible for ten minutes of beeping noises heard during a remote call during the Blue Jays’ away game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The regular season lasts until October 1st.

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