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Border Cats optimistic for 2023 season as Canada may soon drop border vaccine requirements

Written by on September 23, 2022

With the Canadian government poised to drop vaccination requirements at the border next week, the return of the Thunder Bay Border Cats baseball team in 2023 is looking much more likely.

The team hasn’t played in three seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent interview with CBC News, Northwoods League president and commissioner Ryan Voz said the border restrictions remained a major concern, as the Cats are the league’s only Canadian team and the league doesn’t require its players to be vaccinated.

However, reports indicate the government will drop those vaccine requirements — and make use of the ArriveCAN app optional — as of Sept. 30.

The government has not yet officially confirmed the reports.

“It was encouraging news when it kind of got leaked out last weekend,” Border Cats vice-president Bryan Graham said Wednesday. “I know it’s still not official yet from the federal government, but certainly it’s good news for the Border Cats moving forward.”

Voz could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but in the pervious interview, he indicated that a final decision about the Cats would come by November, as that’s when the league is expected to complete the 2023 schedule.

Graham said despite the hiatus, the Cats have been working toward getting a team on the field next year.

“We tentatively have a deal with the new field manager, and we have 15 verbal commitments from players right now,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to put the cart before the horse too soon, based on the fact that the restrictions were still at the border in terms of the vaccination status.”

“Now that that’s coming to an end, we can definitely start signing players to official contracts, and get our team on the field and get it ready, prepared for the 2023 season.”

The team would also be returning to Port Arthur Stadium next year, as the team is the stadium’s main tenant.

A city spokesperson told CBC News staff are readying the stadium for the anticipated return of the Cats in 2023.

“The ownership is still committed to the Border Cats and Thunder Bay,” Graham said. “I know a lot of people have missed Border Cats baseball, and we just need the numbers to show up next year because we have been basically … dormant for three years, which has been very tough.”