2014 was a year we will never forget. It began with the astounding success of the exhibition games in Montreal in March and the celebration of the 1994 Expos, and carried through all the way to the end of the year. Montreal remained in the conversation during the All-Star break and World Series, due in part to encouraging comments from Bud Selig, Scott Boras, Paul Beeston and several influential writers.
When the Montreal Baseball Project first set out to bring back the 1994 team at the beginning of this year, it was to give them the tribute they so deserved, but never received. There was nothing more fitting than to make them a central part of the festivities surrounding the exhibition games at Olympic Stadium, and to reconnect them with the city that was behind them 20 years ago. But we quickly learned something very humbling at the MBP Gala. There were countless stories we did not know. Like how the outfielders would switch gloves during pitching changes just to make the games more interesting. And how confident the team was heading into any city to face any team and the sense of family they felt not just among themselves, but with others in the organization. John Wetteland went so far as to say that it wasn't closure- it just opened up more questions.
It is a big reason why MBP is bringing back some of the most legendary names in Expos history to our Gala in 2015. Rusty Staub and Jacques Doucet were there on opening day in 1969 and together they will reshape our understanding of history and ignite something special once again. Tim Raines and Andre Dawson were the face of the franchise through some of its most promising years, and lived through some unforgettable moments. Andres Galarraga's presence will remind us of how the city has deep roots decades after his big years as an Expo, and how it lives on well after 2004. Their combined presence will create memories that will last a lifetime, and will propel us into the next phase of this big dream of ours.
Montreal is now considered the frontrunner to land a Major League Baseball team. This is tremendous progress from where MBP was a year ago. But we can not stop there, because there are other cities watching, looking to build the same type of momentum so they can find themselves where we are. We have to think bigger, and that will be our challenge in 2015.
However, one thing is certain: Montreal IS a baseball town and in baseball terms, a five-tool city. That was proven this year, and it will be proven again next April. It now needs to reaffirm itself as a business town, a bustling place where dreams are born and are lived, and where optimism prevails over nostalgia. A big part of the resurgence of baseball here is the boomerang effect of adults who loved the Expos 20 years ago now introducing the game to their own children. Those families are a central part of what we are trying to accomplish, so that next generation can pass this tradition down to their children.
The conversation around baseball in Montreal has to shift from simple yes or no questions and answers, to what it would take to bring it back here and make it a lasting success. Those who want to dwell on what went wrong have already missed an amazing ride, one that has transcended and brought ideas and people together like only Baseball can.
We learned a lot this year about how strong the passion for baseball is in Montreal, beyond what many had anticipated. And we were overwhelmed by how much support we have throughout the baseball world. But most importantly, we learned that this is all happening because ultimately there are people who believe in Montreal and what it can accomplish. It is time we all do.
On behalf of everyone at the Montreal Baseball Project, I wish you all the best for the holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2015. We can't wait for it!