The first game I booked to anchor my Baseball Week travels was a Saturday Blue Jays game against the Rays. You may be wondering why you would attend yet another game in Toronto? As a lifelong Montrealer, there are 2 words that will explain everything.
There is a small but growing movement in Montreal that is trying to generate interest in bringing Major League Baseball back to the city. While anyone who knows the story of the Expos knows how badly it ended for everyone involved and that there is 0% of a team ever returning here until a few key things happen, some of us have finally gotten over the bitterness and embraced the idea of getting a team back in our fair city. So last year a few people decided to organize a trip to Toronto to attend a Jays game and a few hundred Montrealers accepted. This year, in what seems to have been an even more organized effort, roughly 1,000 Expos fans attended the game on Saturday against the Rays. Taking up a large chunk of the left field bleachers, the fans cheered, reminisced and celebrated the team that left Montreal for Washington almost ten years ago.
I decided this year to join in the fun and brought along 3 ex-Montrealers who now live in Toronto. We took in the game (Toronto lost for the 2nd day in a row) and participated in what will hopefully become an annual event.
I’m unsure if Montreal will ever get a team again and if baseball can work in Montreal. I do feel that if it’s going to happen, it’s not going to be next year or even in 5 years but more like 10-20 years out. A series of important things have to happen for this to be possible:
- The team will need a new, modern ballpark. Playing at the Olympic Stadium is not an option.
- The new ballpark will have to be somewhere downtown. It has to be within walking distance from the commercial centre of the city.
- There has to be a serious ownership group, with deep pockets who is invested in the long-term viability of a team in Montreal. It has to be majority-owned by one of the short list of Canadian companies that can afford it.
- The owners have to from day one be prepared to invest in putting together a winning and enjoyable team to watch.
- A quality farm system needs to be developed.
- The fanbase has to be built back up slowly and carefully to ensure that all the different communities in the city are excited about the game.
- Amateur baseball has to be encouraged throughout the region.
- We have to accept it’s going to cost a billion dollars.
- And of course, Bud Selig needs to retire.