A day after Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made Montreal a hot topic at Tuesday night’s all-star game, fans are clinging to hope that professional baseball might again be a sporting option in the city.
No one more than Warren Cromartie, a standout outfielder/first baseman with the Expos during the late 1970s and early ‘80s who is president of Montreal Expos Project, a group whose aim is to bring the major leagues back to the city.
After hearing Selig’s comments on Tuesday that Montreal would be an “excellent candidate” for a potential franchise, Cromartie believes the city that is home to the NHL’s Canadiens, CFL’s Alouettes and Major League Soccer’s Impact, is firmly on the radar for baseball.
@ShiDavidi Let's face it: What else is he supposed to say? Selig will say whatever is politically correct.— LJ Lafleur (@lafleur64) July 15, 2014
Some fans took to Twitter on Wednesday to express their excitement at the thought of cheering again for a major league team while others remain skeptical.
And who could blame them, really.
@ShiDavidi Bud Selig-what a tease.— Catherine Scott (@ScottCath) July 15, 2014
@ShiDavidi if it didn't work the first time what makes him think it would work a second time. Definitely no place for a team— booboo31 (@jespollacco) July 15, 2014
Sure, the Expos drew 31,395 to the oversized and out of the way Olympic Stadium for their final game on Sept. 29, 2004 before moving to Washington, but they averaged a paltry 9,356 bums in the seats that season.
And remember, Montreal had a peak attendance of just over 2.3 million in 1983 – yes, 31 years ago – so that’s a concern.
Selig, who is expected to leave his post prior to the start of next season, did reiterate on Tuesday how impressed he was that the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets drew 96,350 for a pair of spring training games in March at the Big “O.”
But even a big booster like Cromartie knows there is a lot of work to do before Montreal could ever declare itself the home of a major league squad again.
Last December, a feasibility study produced by Cromartie’s group in collaboration with Ernst & Young and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal concluded a new team would require about $355 million in government funding, with the rest covered by a private investor. A deep-pocketed ownership group, in other words.
The report also stated the project would cost a little more than $1 million - $500 million for the facility and $525 million for the franchise.
What Cromartie will say is that Olympic Stadium no longer could serve as a permanent home for any future franchise.
For those in Montreal raising an eyebrow at the attendance figures in Tampa Bay this season – 16,902 per game compared to the major league average of 30,028 – Selig said he has faith in team owner Stuart Sternberg when it comes to the call for a new park for the Rays.
And the commissioner wouldn’t touch the subject Tuesday of Tampa eventually seeking permission to relocate to Montreal.
So don’t expect Evan Longoria, David Price and others to sign up for a French course anytime soon.
So, where does that leave Montreal? Clinging to hope.
Remember, Milwaukee lost the Braves in 1966, only to gain the Brewers in 1970.
Never say never, right?