Jays to play pre-season games in Montreal vs. Mets
Olympic Stadium last hosted game in 2004
Major League Baseball is heading back to Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
The Toronto Blue Jays will play their final two pre-season games next spring on March 28-29 at the former home of the Expos against the New York Mets.
"We are excited to bring the Blue Jays to Montreal, play in Montreal and give the fans a taste of Major League Baseball again," Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said in a statement. "This will be a very meaningful experience knowing the strength and passion of baseball fans in Quebec."
Montreal played to small crowds by the time the Expos were sold and moved to Washington to become the Nationals following the 2004 season.
Olympic Stadium hasn’t hosted a baseball game of any kind since Sept. 29, 2004 when the Florida Marlins defeated the Expos 9-1.
Beeston entertained the idea of bringing a spring training game to Montreal in April 2011 as part of the team’s approach to build a cross-country fan base.
"Being from Montreal, this is going to be a great thrill," said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "I started my career with the Expos and spent many a game at Olympic Stadium. It will be exciting to see the Big O come to life again."
Baseball Quebec will also be involved during the two-game series by offering clinics at Olympic Stadium to promote the development of the sport among young people throughout the province.
On July 20, about 1,000 Expos fans, hoping to attract the attention of MLB’s movers and shakers, packed into the outfield bleachers at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The group wore the defunct club's traditional red, white and baby blue and held up signs promoting their cause.
"Our goal is to celebrate the history of the Expos and show that there is still a viable market for it," said Matthew Ross, who runs the website Expos Nation and helped organize the trip.
"We do everything we can to drum up nostalgia for the team and at the same time focus on the future."
About 200 people made a similar trek to Toronto last season.
The Montreal Baseball Project, a group founded a year-and-a-half ago by former Expos outfielder/first baseman Warren Cromartie, is a focal point of the renewed interest in the team.
At events around the city over the past year, Cromartie has made his sales pitch for bringing back baseball.
Tuesday’s announcement could bring back talk of Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium as a potential site for a pre-season game featuring Toronto and Seattle.
Andy Dunn, president of the single-A Vancouver Canadians, reportedly kicked the tires on such an idea two years ago in the middle of a $563-million refurbishment of the stadium, which is home to the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions and Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps.
With files from The Canadian Press