Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has high hopes of bringing major league baseball back to Montreal, and he made a first pitch today in New York City in a private meeting with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
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"The message that I tried to send is that the Montreal baseball games that we had in the last two years [were] not just about nostalgia. It was about DNA," Coderre told reporters after his meeting with Manfred.
In mid-April, more than 46,000 fans attended a pre-season game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cincinnati Reds. More than 50,000 fans showed up to watch the teams play again the next day.
"I started with what I wanted to tell him: 'Listen, Montreal is a great place to be. You'd see more and more people who love the sport," Coderre said.
"There is a buzz right now, but it's more than just a trend. People are pulling out their caps from the Expos, and they are wearing the logo."
The mayor of Montreal has campaigned hard for the Expos' return to Montreal since taking office about a year and a half ago.
Direction New York. Take me out to the ball game :)— @DenisCoderre
Coderre said his meeting with Manfred was very positive and focused on their love of baseball — not on Montreal getting its own team.
"I want Montreal to gain back a team eventually, but I wanted to open a channel. I clearly wanted to show that it's not just about gaining back a team — it's about how can we get baseball back to Montreal?"
Coderre said he'd like to see Montreal host a few regular season games starting in 2016.
"Because Montreal is a tremendous hub, we can have all the people from [surrounding cities] who will come. Can you imagine to have the Blue Jays or the Yankees or the Dodgers play in Montreal?"
Coderre said he and Manfred have set up another meeting.
Ministers wish Coderre luck
Earlier on Thursday, provincial ministers Sam Hamad and Pierre Moreau said they wished Coderre luck with his endeavour.
"If I was the mayor of Montreal, I would do the same thing," Hamad said.
"As one of the Expos' fans when they were there, there's, I would say, an atmosphere that is quite unique in Montreal as far as baseball is concerned," Moreau said.
When asked whether there is money to build a new baseball facility for a potential team, however, both remained mum.
"Oh, well it's too soon to say," Moreau said before ducking into the caucus meeting.