Opinion: Stand by, baseball will be back in Montreal
With another well-attended weekend of Major League Baseball preseason games behind us, questions from the media and general public have intensified. Will pro baseball really return to Montreal? If so, who will be a part of the ownership group? Where’s the stadium location and plan? How will it all be paid for?
The lack of concrete information adds to the sense that the return of the Expos is just a pipe dream. Or that the people involved are minor-leaguers in the business sense.
As the founder and chair of ExposNation, which promotes the return of MLB to Montreal, I am happy to say there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. For one thing, John McHale Jr., who is the executive vice-president of administration for MLB, was in Montreal last weekend to represent the league and once again gave a glowing report to the office of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.
The local group met with officials from the MLB teams in town and they too came away impressed with the work that has been done so far.
Last Saturday, April 2, on TSN 690 Radio, I spoke with Mitch Garber, a hugely successful Montrealer who is the CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment and the World Series of Poker, among other enterprises. Not only did he affirm his interest in being a part of a potential ownership group, but he also explained that Major League Baseball likes things done quietly.
In other words, the fact that you haven’t heard anything about what is going on means very little.
One example of that: Canadian sports fans may recall the efforts of former BlackBerry head Jim Balsillie to land a National Hockey League franchise. Balsillie was bold, aggressive and highly public. The NHL did not take kindly to this approach and Balsillie was ultimately rebuffed — more than once.
The reality is that the local efforts of Ernst & Young, the law firm BCF, the Montreal Board of Trade, the Montreal Baseball Project, Mayor Denis Coderre, Stephen Bronfman, and others, are not falling on deaf ears. They’re progressing just as Major League Baseball wants them to: carefully, diligently and step-by-step. In fact, I have highly reliable indications that the baseball commissioner’s office is impressed with how everything is moving forward in Montreal, including the fact that everything is being done behind closed doors.
But silence doesn’t help when there are questions and concerns. As a result, passionate baseball fans come up with idea after idea on how to bring the Expos back to Montreal. What they don’t realize is that every single one of the individuals who are working on this Montreal baseball file are just as passionate about ensuring the return of Nos Amours.
The truth is baseball is coming back to Montreal; it’s just that the timetable is largely out of our control. We have to let Major League Baseball continue to lead this marathon of a dance with the Montrealers who have chosen to wear their dancing shoes. If MLB wants to twirl or dip, then so be it. After all, they own the dance floor.
So how can Montrealers do their part? Continue to demonstrate our love of the game of baseball, and to celebrate the special history of the game in our city.
We can profess our love of baseball by coaching or enrolling our kids in amateur baseball. By supporting the annual pre-season games in Montreal. By donning the colours of the Expos at home and abroad. By posting, sharing and enjoying baseball online and on social media.
Finally, by having faith that there are credible, well-intentioned people working hard to make things happen and trusting that we’re getting closer to this exciting reality every day.
Matthew Ross is the chairman and founder of ExposNation, a non-profit corporation that promotes the return of Major League Baseball to Montreal. He is also a host on TSN 690 Radio Montreal.
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