A funny thing happened at the ballpark the other day – we kept seeing Expos fans. Now, this is not an uncommon experience at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals (who were once the Montreal Expos). But in New York? When the Mets weren’t even playing the Nats?
Aside from the unusual concentration of Expos hats, jerseys, and tees in the stands, there were also occasional chants of “Let’s Go Expos!” Again, since they weren’t playing the Nats, we were very confused.
It is here where my typical U.S. ignorance of Canada comes into play. Besides pining for their wayward Expos, Canadian baseball fans are pretty darn organized and quite determined to do something about their loss. I had no idea. And it turns out that July 12 was “Expos Day.” The Mets even had a special page on their website for purchasing tickets to the event.
There are at least two official organizations that have been created to keep the memory of Montreal baseball alive and bring a team back to the city. ExposNation, a non-profit organization, states it is officially recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Major League Players Alumni Association. They sponsor Expos Day and other events. They have worked closely with other entities, such as the Montreal Baseball Project and Baseball Canada in their efforts to bring baseball back to Montreal.
The goal of the Montreal Baseball Project is “to build upon the recent groundswell of demand for baseball in Montreal and deliver a team back to the community.” The organization is led by Warren Cromartie, who played for the Expos between 1974 and 1983. Last year, the organization, along with Montreal’s Board of Trade, sponsored a feasibility study to determine whether a new MLB team in Montreal would be financially viable. The answer was yes, but it would cost about $1.025 billion ($525 million to acquire a team and another $500 million to build a stadium). The next steps are to develop a business plan and find local backers for the team.
Even MLB Commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged the work of groups in Montreal. Noting that 95,000 people attended the two exhibition games in Montreal this spring, Selig said, “‘They did very, very well. Very pleased and proud of what they have done.’”
I know that one of my greatest regrets as a baseball fan is not getting see a game at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Sure, I got to Montreal in November 2004 and toured the stadium, but baseball was already gone. At least the Expos ended up in D.C. with me. But imagine how the typical Expos fan feels. Now I feel a little guilty for being a Nats fan.
But only a little guilty…