The crack of a bat, the pop of a ball hitting leather, the smell of hot dogs on the grill… just three basic reasons to love baseball – and that’s without getting into pennant races, suicide squeezes and the infield shift.
Today, for some reason, baseball is in the air in my part of the world. When I walked into my office this morning, I was presented with an amazing gift – a game-worn Montreal Expos cap from the early-80s – from one of my colleagues who worked with the former Major League Baseball team back in the day. Then I turned on my computer and my news feed showed me a handful of stories on the potential of an independent league team in our city, and my imagination started to wander.
If we can’t have the Expos playing in a 40,000-seat Major League park downtown, why not get an independent league team to play in a 5,000-10,000 seat stadium in, say, Laval or on the South Shore?
Imagine taking your son, daughter, wife, boyfriend, dad, or whoever to a gorgeous stadium near a metro stop in Laval or Longueuil, not far from the highway, with ample parking and public transport to and from the building? Picture a cool summer night with the Montreal team hosting the Capitales de Québec in a Can-Am League battle for first place…
By the way, not only is Can-Am baseball thriving in Quebec City – the Capitales are the two-time defending league champions, having just clinched their second title in a row and third overall last week.
But Montreal can’t support baseball… right?
Bollocks. Montreal is most certainly a baseball town – and a hockey town, football town, soccer town, and whatever else we want it to be. We tend to have this piss-poor small-town attitude about ourselves not being able to support anything other than hockey, but people need to realize Montreal is a big, cosmopolitan monster of a city that can support all kinds of things!
Yes, it’s true that the island itself has only about 2 million people, but we need to stop thinking about the city proper alone and realize that the metropolitan area has close to 4 million citizens. Yes, that means you South and North Shores… and Laval as well. Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but Laval is part of the Montreal Metropolitan Area and as much as those of us who live in the big city make fun of people from there, they are basically Montrealers too.
Not only do we have the population to justify it, we have the history and background to support it. Putting aside our amazing history with the
Expos, this city has a baseball tradition running back to the 19th century! Yeah, the Royals first came into existence in the late 1890s, and were the crown jewel the city’s summer sports scene through the 1950s.
Does the name Jackie Robinson ring a bell? Yeah, the same Jackie Robinson who broke the Major League colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Well, he started his pro career with the Royals, right here in Quebec’s metropolis. And that’s just the tip of the Montreal baseball iceberg.
Strike while the iron’s still hot – or at least still simmering
The way I see it, baseball has a 5-10 year window to be able to come back to this city and thrive. The last generation of kids who grew up watching good Expos teams is reaching its late 20s, and if those people are to be expected to get back on board and teach their own children to love baseball, it has to happen before the spark totally burns out.
Imagine the fun we’d have as a city getting a new team, having a chance to pick a new name and logo, building a new community around the club. It would be sort of like the grassroots movement that has re-built the Montreal Alouettes brand – and that has been nothing short of a monumental success.
The new team could reach out and become the hub of all that is baseball in the Montreal area. Concordia and McGill could have their teams play at the new park as well, and the stadium could host all of the region’s baseball associations throughout the summer. Imagine Concordia and McGill games back-to-back on Saturday followed by Montreal vs Quebec on Sunday afternoon?
The possibilities are endless – we just need to show the potential Can-Am investors that we have a community that will support the game. Warren Cromartie’s already on board – let’s show Cro that we’ve got his back, and while we’re at it, let’s reach out to The Rock, The Kid, The Hawk and all the other former Montreal baseball greats to get on board as well.
And if that magical day ever happens that baseball comes back to town, let’s make sure to get a member of Jackie Robinson’s family to throw out the first pitch.
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