Tim Raines trib­ute and dreams of Ex­pos

Jays make an­nual pre-sea­son stopover in Montreal

National Post (National Edition) - - SPORTS - JACK TODD Montreal Gazette For ticket in­for­ma­tion, visit www.evenko.ca

It’s Ground­hog Day all over again, the an­nual spring rite when we gather at Olympic Sta­dium to wal­low in Ex­pos nos­tal­gia, demon­strate our love for base­ball and, coin­ci­den­tally, to en­rich the Toronto Blue Jays and Evenko in the process.

If a pair of mean­ing­less ex­hi­bi­tion games be­tween the Blue Jays and the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates don’t quite whet your ap­petite, there’s plenty more, be­gin­ning with the much de­served trib­ute to Tim Raines, who was fi­nally elected to the Base­ball Hall of Fame last win­ter on his 10th and fi­nal chance.

The fes­tiv­i­ties this year will in­clude the Fan Jam be­gin­ning at 5 p.m. Fri­day and 11 a.m. Satur­day. The trib­ute, sched­uled for 6:35 Fri­day ahead of the game’s 7 p.m. start, should be the big draw.

If Raines isn’t enough, Den­nis Martinez, Steve Rogers, Bill Lee, Al Oliver, David Palmer and Jeff Rear­don will also be on hand Fri­day and Que­bec Ma­jor Lea­guers in­clud­ing Claude Ray­mond, De­nis Boucher and Derek Au­coin will be hon­oured Satur­day.

The sub­text, as al­ways, will be the ef­fort to bring back the Ex­pos. What seemed an im­pos­si­ble pipedream when the Jays first played these ex­hi­bi­tions four years ago has moved to the realm of the gen­uinely pos­si­ble, even if a re­port this week that in­vestors were await­ing word from Ma­jor League Base­ball was pre­ma­ture.

We will al­ways be grate­ful to Frédéric Daigle of Presse Cana­di­enne, whose re­port that a group of Montreal in­vestors had met the con­di­tions for the re­turn of the Ex­pos elicited this pithy re­sponse from Mayor De­nis Coderre: “Ar­ti­cle Frédéric Daigle sur re­tour Ex­pos, source a tenté de vous rouler dans la farine ... rien de réglé. Tout chem­ine bien mais pas en­tente . ... ”

I had never come across the ex­pres­sion “rouler dans la farine” be­fore. “Rolled in the flour,” which I would trans­late as “pull the wool over your eyes.” There’s a lot of that with any big project but this time, the coat­ing of flour ap­pears to be rather light.

Ba­si­cally Coderre ap­peared to be say­ing that no deal is done, but the universe is un­fold­ing as it should. Mitch Gar­ber, a mem­ber of the group try­ing to birth a new Ex­pos fran­chise, said much the same thing: Talk of fi­nan­cial sup­port from two lev­els of gov­ern­ment and po­ten­tial sta­dium lo­ca­tions and de­signs was pre­ma­ture if not down­right in­ac­cu­rate.

“There’s this great de­sire to have Ma­jor League Base­ball in Montreal,” Gar­ber said. “But it’s not as ad­vanced as this story would make it sound.”

The over­all picture should be­come clearer at the Olympic Sta­dium Fri­day af­ter­noon, when re­porters will be more in­ter­ested in hear­ing what Mayor Photo Op has to say than in who is bat­ting sev­enth for the Blue Jays.

There are at least a dozen groups work­ing in some way for the re­turn of the Ex­pos, most with lit­tle more to of­fer than nos­tal­gia and hope. The Gar­ber/Stephen Bronf­man group is the one with the clout, money and Bronf­man name. The in­vestors in that group aside, no one I know has stud­ied the file more thor­oughly than Mark San­chini, a his­tory teacher at the Wil­fred Lau­rier School Board.

San­chini noted that the Peel Basin site has been tar­geted but even with the de­mo­li­tion of the Bon­aven­ture ex­press­way, there isn’t enough room on the north side of the basin to lo­cate a base­ball park. “The only vi­able piece of land,” San­chini said, “is on the south side of the basin, in Goose Vil­lage.” While ex­plor­ing the area last sum­mer, San­chini dis­cov­ered that most of the land be­tween Mill Street, Bridge Street, the Peel Basin and Welling­ton Street is owned by the city — and that there would ap­pear to be enough land there for a sta­dium.

“What also con­firmed my sus­pi­cions is that the new REM train now has a planned stop called Peel Basin, with ex­its on both the north and south sides of the basin. There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for putting an exit on the south side, in Goose Vil­lage, un­less you’re planning a ma­jor real-es­tate project.”

San­chini com­pares the po­ten­tial of Goose Vil­lage with the site of Petco Park in San Diego, an in­dus­trial park be­fore the sta­dium was built that is now prime real es­tate — a com­mon busi­ness plan for fran­chise own­ers look­ing to build a sta­dium.

It would ap­pear that we’re still some dis­tance from see­ing a deal to bring the Ex­pos back but the project has pro­gressed light years.

Are we close? Well, I wouldn’t want to roll you in the flour. LASALLE, Al­lan 1:00 Pardes Chaim. * See www.he­brew­ba­sicburial.ca for shiva times

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.