Montréal welcomes home Russell Martin & Vladimir Guererro Jr.
For the fifth year in a row, the Blue Jays decided to play their last two spring training games in Montréal to the delight of 25,355 people. The game wasn’t driven by the hitting or pitching, but by the presence of some particular people at our gloriously awful Stade Olympique.
Before the game, in what has become an annual tradition, a series of past favourite Expos were introduced, some of who hadn’t been back to Montréal in years. While it was a pleasure to get to see Expos greats Ellis Valentine, Chris Speier, Darren Fletcher, John Wetteland, Ken Hill and José Vidro (1997-2004) again, seeing Larry Parrish was a treat. With fond memories of the 1981 team, it was touching to know that Larry Parrish, who refuses to fly, drove all the way up from Atlanta specifically for the game.
As always, when Russell Martin was introduced and took the field, he recognized the roar of the crowd with the tip of his cap. As someone who spent much of his youth growing up in Montréal, the city takes extra pride all of his accomplishments. I don’t think it hurts that his French is pretty impeccable.
The moment that everyone was waiting for was when Vladimir Guererro Jr. entered the game at third base. Born in Montréal as well, he is the son of one of the best Expos players of all time, Vladimir Guererro Sr. So for him to be back in our city, in the same locker room, playing baseball on the same field as his father, was surreal. To know that as a toddler he ran around the same field, eating ice cream and his grandmother’s cooking, he deserved the ovation so that he knew that he is a part of our family.
St. Louis’ Michael Wacha has a nice four innings, giving up no runs with six strikeouts. Teoscar Hernández was particularly impressive with a triple, a couple of RBI’s and a stolen base. The word from the baseball hive mind is that he still needs some seasoning in the minors to reduce his strikeout count, but he seems close. If Steve Pearse or Curtis Granderson falter at any point this season, we may see Teoscar sooner rather than later.
Given the attendance lower than previous years, I was expecting a flurry of negative press around these games. Instead, there was a tempered sense of context, other than from this hyperbole coming out of an article by Michael Shenker for the Montréal Gazette. For these games to draw over 25k on a Tuesday night, exhibition games played by teams that aren’t native to our city is pretty damn good. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that evenko chose to close completely the 500 level, which if opened, could have ballooned the attendance figures.