Montreal proved its love for baseball by supplying nearly 100,000 fans for two exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cincinnati Reds last month. The city’s mayor now plans to meet with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on the next criterion for reinstating baseball: showing him that the city would ante up for a new baseball stadium.
Manfred has said, “The key thing in Montreal would be to have a plan for an adequate facility that could support baseball over the long haul…. I don’t expect people to go into the ground and build a facility without some sort of commitment that they are going to get a team. But I do think that you need a plan, and a commitment to how that plan is going to be executed.”
To that end, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told CBC that he looks forward to his first face-to-face meeting with Manfred in New York City on May 28. He said, “We will show Mr. Manfred our love for the sport. I don’t want to negotiate openly, but we’ll clearly talk about Montreal.”
Manfred has allowed that the two exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds in 2015 and the two games between the Blue Jays and New York Mets in 2014 proved that the city dearly wants the return of baseball.
The Montreal Expos played their last season in 2004 before reincarnating as the Washington Nationals in 2005.
In March, Manfred informed The Canadian Press, “The key thing in Montreal would be to have a plan for an adequate facility that could support baseball over the long haul.” He later said he would welcome a meeting with the Montreal mayor.
Coderre is determined to have a coherent proposal ready, asserting, “We need a plan, we need a step-by-step approach. You don’t pull the flower to make it grow faster.”
Matthew Ross, president and founder of Expos Nation, a local group pushing for the return of baseball, said of the planned meeting, “It’s a tremendously positive thing because the mayor is such an ambassador, not just for the city but for Major League Baseball coming back to Montreal.” He added that although hard plans have not been finalized, the mayor can still give Manfred an idea of how far the city has come in terms of developing an infrastructure for the team. He pointed out that the tremendous number of fans for the exhibition games should turn Manfred’s head, saying, “I think it’s unbelievable, especially when there’s no home team on the field.”
Although Ross believes that Montreal’s best chance of landing a team would come through expansion, Manfred has already stated expansion stands little chance of being implemented, preferring the relocation of an existing team. Last fall rumors abounded that the Tampa Bay Rays, who play in an ugly, outdated enormodome, might move to Montreal.
Ross thinks a team could be established in five to seven years, but Coderre prefers to eschew setting a deadline. He said, “I’m not going to talk about years, why should I frame myself with years?”