The city of Montreal showed it was ready to embrace baseball again after a near decade long absence following the Expos exit in 2004.
In an event spearheaded by Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, the Jays hosted a brief two-game exhibition series against the New York Mes at Olympic Stadium on Friday and Saturday. Yes, the old stadium is still standing, though it needed a few upgrades and a new pitching mound to be installed to accommodate the series.
Joining Beeston in his efforts was former Expo Warren Cromartie, who founded the Montreal Baseball Project designed to examine what the city will need to do to bring a team back to Montreal permanently. Both men had to be encouraged after Friday's opener drew 46,121 fans. Saturday's turnout proved even better, with 50,229 fans attending, bringing the weekend total to 96,350.
That might not lead to Montreal receiving a new team in the near-future, but it could make exhibition games similar to this weekend a regular event, which is a step in the right direction.
However, as successful as the event was on the whole, and as exciting as the action was — Toronto won both games in their final at-bat — the highlight of the series came before the first pitch was even thrown, as former Expos and Mets legend and baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter was honored by the city of Montreal in an emotional pre-game ceremony.
Attending the ceremony was Carter's widow, Sandy Carter, and his daughter, Kimmy Bloemers. They were joined by his former teammates Cromartie, Steve Rogers and Tim Raines. All were blown away by the magnitude of the ceremony and the emotion it stirred not only within them, but also within the fanbase that adored Carter for so many years.
“It was emotional. It was beautiful,” Sandy Carter said afterward about the ceremony. “It was even more special than I thought it would be, which I had [high] expectations. We just felt so much love from everyone. The city always embraced Gary, embraced us as a family. I just really felt that tonight.
“We bought a home here. Little Kimmy was born here. We learned a little French. We made it our home. We felt privileged and blessed to be here for 11 years, and he gave 100 percent.”
A message on the old stadium scoreboard matched the new banner on the wall:
MERCI! THANK YOU!
‘THE KID’ 8
It was a night Carter himself would have been proud to attend, though for reasons completely unrelated to himself. Just seeing baseball back in Montreal would have been enough. He loved that city, and he loved wearing those unique but stylish Expos uniforms.
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