Doesn’t Montreal deserve a new baseball stadium built to look just like this one?
Considering the content of this blog you’d probably be surprised to learn that in my younger years, I was a devout baseball fan, and hockey was a distant second on my radar. I first got the baseball bug in 1984 when I was just six years old. I enrolled in tee-ball and played the game for the next 11 years. Prior to 1984, the only thing that really mattered to me was Star Wars. Hockey didn’t enter the picture until the ’89 Cup finals. I have vague recollections of ’86, but nothing more. Fast forward 26 years and I’ll tell you that hockey and Star Wars are my bread and butter, but baseball has slipped considerably. Without a doubt, the departure of the Expos had almost everything to do with my drop in interest.
If I were in to online wagering, after the Expos left in 2004, I would have bet any amount that baseball was dead in Montreal forever. Most of that sentiment was emotional and very irrational. Teams come and go, of course, and there is always hope the game can live again in Montreal. A lot of people have allowed their love of the game die, some have promised never to give Bud Selig and Major League Baseball another cent, but many more have merely let their love of baseball slip in to hibernation. These latter two groups should be elated, as I was, when it was announced on the team 990′s airwaves that former Expos outfielder Warren ‘Cro’ Cromartie is working with Marc Griffin, and others to bring an Independent Baseball League team to Montreal.
If I didn’t have such a massive office chair, I would have fallen off upon hearing that news.
Whenever ‘Cro’ would be on as a guest on Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show, fans would constantly encourage him to try and bring ball back to Montreal. It seems he’s now going to give it a shot, and I for one could not be happier.
The pessimist in me can’t help but think this is going to be one big tease, but there’s no reason why a city the size of Montreal could not be (and isn’t) home to a professional baseball team. To those not in the know, baseball in Montreal goes WAY back. Famously, Jackie Robinson got his start in professional baseball back in the 1940′s when he broke baseball’s colour barrier with the Montreal Royals. Other prominent Royals include Tommy Lasorda, Duke Snider, Don Drysdale and Roy Campanella; all hall of famers. But did you know that the Royals are actually older than your beloved Montreal Canadiens? Though they were defunct between 1918-1927, the Royals were actually founded back in 1897, 12 years before J. Ambrose O’Brien founded the Canadiens at a Montreal hotel. For further perspective, the Royals went belly-up in 1960, after 52 seasons of ball in Montreal, and NINE seasons before the Expos played their first game. In an ill-fated attempt to bring affordable baseball back to Montreal, the Canadian Baseball League, in 2003 started up (and died that same year). The Montreal Royales were one of eight teams to play in the league during its inaugural (and final) year, but because the Royales couldn’t (or perhaps smartly wouldn’t) play their home games at Olympic Stadium, they never actually played a home game in the Montreal area.
My mind is racing, but for this to work, Cromartie and his group would need to have their team play in a stadium not called the “Big O”, not even temporarily. People simply won’t go. It’s a dump; cold and sterile, out of the way, not to mention the fears of falling concrete. It carries the hurtful baggage of being the Expos home for so long. Basically, the Olympic Stadium is to ballparks what Tatooine is to Star Wars, minus the twin suns. But before a team can be brought to Montreal, a stadium would have to be built. A small, cozy, open-air stadium that would sit 10,000 people would be more than enough to make this work. The stadium wouldn’t even have to be half-full to make it work! The location of the stadium is also critical. With people exiting the city for the outlying suburbs, it’s crucial that the stadium be in a place that is easily accessible by all. The part of town where the Olympic Stadium currently sits is not accessible, parking is scarce and with all due respect to the people that live around there, it’s the ass-end of town now.
I badly miss watching a game where time is not a factor, where you can sit outside and enjoy the beautiful (and sometimes not so beautiful) weather. Baseball, unlike other spectator sports is a game where you can chat with friends in the stands, and get lost in the atmosphere of a great stadium without feeling like you’re missing the game. In hockey, if you blink, you’ll miss something. There is NO sound in any sport as inextricably linked to summertime as the crack of a bat. That sound been brutally absent in Montreal for 5 years now, and it’s time that gaping void is filled.
If you’re a Montrealer, and miss baseball as much as I do, this is great news. I’ll keep listening for, and posting updates here and on twitter. I also created a twitter account specifically focused on bringing baseball back to Montreal. You can follow that account here, and follow the facebook group called “Baseball in Montreal – Baseball à Montréal“, founded by Game Points on Team990 host Matthew Ross. The group is already at 496 members, so let’s try to push that above 500 and beyond!