For one weekend in March, baseball was the talk of the town in Montreal and was a big deal again. For the first time since 2004, the city of Montreal was host to two Major League baseball exhibition games, between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets.
Both games had their own moments of excitement and the Blue Jays managed to win both games, 5-4 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday. The two teams played in front of a packed Olympic stadium with 46, 121 people on Friday and 50, 229 on Saturday. The night and day games were full of excitement, electricity and emotion and I am happy to say I was fortunate to experience it live in the Big O for both days. In the past, I had been fortunate to be around in some big crowds at Expos games, but never saw one that big for baseball like the one I saw on Saturday.
In the crowd there were many Jays and Mets fans, but the logo that dominated the stadium was the Expos logo, as Expos fans made themselves seen and their voices hear. Throughout both games there were loud and constant “Let’s Go Expos” chants, the fans would start the wave that would go around the stadium several times and also participated in an old classic, the banging of the seats, which caused some of the loudest noise during the two game series.
On Friday, the Expos fans who were able to get into the stadium and beat the traffic, were fortunate enough to see a beautiful and emotional tribute to the late, great Gary Carter, with speeches by his wife and former teammates like Warren Cromartie, the man responsible to the Montreal Baseball project and of course former Expo.
Saturday’s events had the 1994 Montreal Expos team honored in front of the crowd with former players like Ken Hill, Larry Walker, Darren Fletcher, Moises Alou, John Wetteland, Dennis Boucher, Cliff Floyd, Marquis Grissom, former manager Felipe Alou and the great old orange mascot Youpi! all there and sporting their Expos’ jerseys, which had the crowd screaming for more!
Even riding the Montreal metro on the green line heading to the Olympic stadium with all the Expos, Mets and Jays fans talking about baseball in both languages was exciting. If people think baseball is dead in Montreal well almost 100 000 people didn’t get the memo this weekend.
My favorite moment was during the first game where the Jays were trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning with runners in scoring position. The fans started to bang the plastic seats, with the stadium shaking; the noise in the building was getting louder and louder and then Edwin Encarnacion hit an RBI single to tie the game. While Encarnacion was caught in a rundown between first and second base, and eventually tagged out, the game was tied and the crowd was going wild.
The Blue Jays and Mets put on a great show for the fans; they played their starters at the beginning of the game, which was a great way to promote the game with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright and Curtis Granderson all on the field. Truly a wonderful experience shared by everyone who managed to go, what will come out of these games is a mystery, will this be another spark that lands a team back in Montreal? Of course their are many obstacles to overcome before that could be a reality. But at least for one weekend, baseball was the talk of the town.
Jose Bautistaa homerun in the first game, which was the first homer in the Big O, since September 29, 2004, hit by then Florida Marlins Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera of course just signed a mega-contract with the Tiger
The Miami Marlins never drew a crowd close to 40 000 people in the 2013 season and only once did they draw a crowd over 30 000 people, which was their home opener, I bring this up because their owner Jeffrey Loria is the former Expos owner. .
Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis played his first MLB season for the Montreal Expos in 2004 and played in the first exhibition game.
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