As Montreal baseball fans, we shouldn’t lose sight of how far we have come. And we have to trust those who are trying to bring baseball back.
Much has happened since my last Opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette three years ago, when I confidently declared that baseball will return to Montreal. We’ve seen Stephen Bronfman and Mitch Garber step to the fore. We’ve seen three more years of successful Blue Jays preseason games. But most important, we’ve seen nothing but positive remarks from Major League Baseball, as it relates to the Montreal market. We’ve even seen a second consecutive Montreal mayor be open to the return of the Expos. So everything is on track, right?
Recent reports in both languages of an existing MLB team sharing its home games with Montreal have brought an inexplicable backlash from certain baseball fans and media members. We’ve seen it in articles, on social media and heard it on call-in shows. However, without the benefit of background and context, how can the general public or pundits pass judgment on the inner workings of the Montreal Group? Last week’s reporting contained no comments from any of the stakeholders, which just means that they aren’t yet ready to talk.
It was reported this month that the Tampa Bay Rays could play up to 10 games in Montreal if they choose to, according to their lease. In reality, the 10-game clause only applied in the event they were able to secure funding for a new ballpark in Tampa Bay (i.e. Hillsborough County). They were unable to do so. As such, the clause is not applicable and died officially on Dec. 31, 2018.
Next, La Presse reported that the local group’s updated feasibility study (originally released in 2013, updated in 2018) did not account for the exchange rate. According to my sources, this is patently false.
While the patience of the eager has dwindled, the truth is we are advancing toward the goal of having a team again; we just don’t know when — and there’s nothing we can really do about it.
Let’s put things in perspective. The local efforts are being led by successful businessmen who have demonstrated a love of both baseball and Montreal. Bronfman oversees Claridge and comes from a family renowned for launching the Expos. Garber is a highly successful businessman. Couche-Tard founder Alain Bouchard is another involved figure with noteworthy business acumen.
Thus, when a few weeks or months go by without any statements from the local group, it’s not because things aren’t going well; it’s because, for a variety of reasons, they cannot compromise their efforts by sharing certain private details, be it in regard to land negotiations, government talks or back channels with MLB, which are all actually happening. We, the public, also have a responsibility not to believe every “scoop” that attempts to speak for the principal figures.
As Montreal baseball fans, we shouldn’t lose sight of how far we have come. We went from losing a team and MLB having a poor baseball viability opinion of Montreal, to breaking records and hosting preseason games, to being publicly proclaimed by the commissioner himself as a market that is ripe for a full-time MLB team, thus putting our city in the pole position for such a team.
Major League Baseball is an exclusive club. Only 30 cities are members. Montreal is owed nothing. Rather, we have to slowly, patiently and enthusiastically earn our way back into its good graces. Whether that comes by way of expansion in a few years or via a club looking for a new home, we have to trust those who are trying to bring baseball back. Putting aside our impatience and our preferences, keep in mind that the people who are behind this project want nothing more than to oversee the rebirth of what we all want: the return of Nos Amours. Our Loves. The Expos.
Matthew Ross is the chairman and founder of ExposNation, a non-profit corporation that promotes the return of Major League Baseball to Montreal. He is also a host on TSN 690 Radio Montreal.