WOW. WOW, WOW, WOW. What a fantastic weekend. Where do I begin? There is so much to say and share about our incredible weekend of baseball. It was Montreal's first taste of the game in a decade, and by all accounts, Montreal baseball fans didn't miss a beat.
I'm surprised, but not that surprised by how the fans showed up. When we had the press conference in September to announce the games, I made the call out to Montrealers about how critical it was to be there, how the whole world will be watching. This would be an indication of how much we wanted baseball, and the turnout was twice what many people expected to be.
On a personal note, I wondered what the fans would be thinking when they entered the stadium. It would be different this time. They were coming to see baseball, not the Expos. But it was easy for them. It seemed like nothing had changed in the last 10 years. It was amazing to see families united again to watch a baseball game and watch new grassroots take hold, with so many young fans in the crowd who had never seen a baseball game in Montreal until last weekend.
I realized once again how baseball has this tremendous ability to transcend, to bring people together in the worst of times and in the best of times. It has a knack for calming unrest and cutting through language barriers. Baseball has a way of bringing communities, cities and nations together. What happened last weekend was monumental for the city of Montreal. I understand there is a lot happening on the political scene. But for those two baseball games, no one was thinking about that. Everyone was thinking about having a good time and being in the presence of a game the city loves. That's what baseball does. It transcends.
A sold-out MBP Gala took the weekend to another unforgettable level. Tributes to Claude Raymond and Felipe Alou brought tears to many people’s eyes, including my own. The Gala brought a sense of closure to the lost 1994 season that many of us needed. We heard memorable stories of how the players made it all happen. Larry Walker shared some hilarious stories, like how the outfielders would sometimes switch gloves during pitching changes just to make the games more interesting. John Wetteland, a World Series MVP with a franchise as prestigious as the New York Yankees, talked about how old school he used to play and his story about his feud with Chucky Carr was priceless.
The personal interactions with the players before and after the Gala led to some fascinating discussions. It was heart-warming to hear Walker return to praise the city that he left under circumstances that were perhaps not the best. Wil Cordero laughed about the times he took the Metro home in his Expos uniform, just because he could do that here.
After taking all of that in, I realized last weekend wasn’t just about Montreal reacquainting itself with baseball, but baseball rediscovering its roots in Montreal again. It brought me back to how it started, with a tribute to Gary Carter, and how his wife Sandy and daughter Kimmy waved to the crowd emotionally, just like they waved back to them. For so many who spent time here, Montreal has a special place in their hearts. Hearing the feedback from everyone after the weekend reminded me of how much the game means to Montreal and how much the city misses it.
This was a weekend to remember. We hope to continue working with evenko to make this an annual event until we get our team back. There were representatives from Major League Baseball at the game, and their words spoke volumes about how the world took notice. “I’m going to tell commissioner Bud Selig that things were better than even I expected and that I was very, very, favourably impressed. There is a fire that burns brightly here for Major League Baseball and that’s a message that I’ll be proud to carry to the commissioner,” said MLB executive John McHale Jr.
There is now no doubt Montreal is a baseball city, and I look forward to continuing this journey. We have crossed some major hurdles but we still have a ways to go. We made the right impression and a lot of noise along with it. Montreal sure knocked it out of the park.