Montreal is a great baseball town

By Dan Arnold

Montreal is a great baseball town.

While many may disagree with this statement, I know it to be true because of all I have experienced as a die-hard Expos fan. I have been a fan of the team my entire life and have gone to many games at a stadium which is falling appart and which provides very little athmosphere on it's own. It leaves that part up to the fans.

Two memories stand out from my experience as an Expos fan, the first was towards the end of the now infamous 1994 season when Montreal was falling in love with the Expos all over again. I went to a game the week before the strike hit and the entire Olympic Stadium was packed with screaming fanatical Expos fans who were overjoyed to see their team playoff bound for the first time since 1981. I don't remember who won that game but I remember the buzz in the crowd with over 40,000 fans going crazy for "nos amours"; it was what baseball was supposed to be all about. However, every one of those people had to experience deep heart ache a few weeks latter when the season was cancelled and heart break the following spring when that team was systimatically dismantled.

The second memory comes from the 1999 season opener. As is the case now, the Expos future was in doubt and only a few weeks earlier, Claude Brochu, then the team's owner was bragging to the US media about how no one in Montreal cared about baseball and how no one would come to the game. Well 43,918 fans came to that game in one symbolic show of support for the team they cared so deeply about, even in it's darkest hour. When the attendance was announced on the scoreboard, every last one of us rose to our feet to applaud ourselves and the fact that we had shown that Montreal loved it's team, even when many were saying we didn't.

Both of these events show the many great and painful memories myself and many other die-hard Expos fans have had over the years. In both cases, on the 1999 season opener and during the 1994 season, Montreal showed baseball that it had fans who would support it's baseball team. This despite the fact that these same fans have been forced to endure:
-The longest playoff drought in baseball, now at 19 seasons
-Yearly fire sales which have seen players moved as soon as fans became attached to them
-Terrible management by Claude Brochu, the local consortium, and Jeffrey Loria over the past 10 years which has allienated many fans and seen the team disapear from radio and TV
-The worst ballpark in major league baseball
Because of this, many fans no longer come to the games but with proper management and a new downtown ballpark, they would show up in droves as they did in 1994 and opening day 1999. Montreal's CFL football team, the Montreal Allouettes, used to draw 3,000 a game at the Olympic Stadium but a move to a downtown open air park now sees them sell out every single game. The same will happen for the Expos with a downtown ballpark of their own.

It is because of this, that many Expos fans have become scared with the news that Jeffrey Loria may not build us a downtown stadium as he promised to do. Myself and many fans perceive this as a sign that Loria may want to move the team to another city. However, this would be completely unfair to all Expos fans since we have proven that we can support the team despite less than ideal conditions and at least deserve a chance to show the world that Montreal is a baseball town. It is for this reason that the commisioner must do everything in his power to make sure that the Expos stay in Montreal and get their downtown stadium.

Montreal is a great baseball town...we simply need a chance to prove it.

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