Tampa Bay Rays to explore playing games in Montreal

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: General view of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers during MLB spring training at Olympic Stadium on March 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: General view of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers during MLB spring training at Olympic Stadium on March 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Rays are exploring the option of playing early-season home games in Florida, and the remainder of the year in Montreal, Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser has confirmed.

The plan is still in its early stages, but the Rays have embraced this idea as a solution to saving baseball in the Tampa area, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

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Per Passan, the team would play in new stadiums in each city, although the exact number of games in each location is not confirmed. Canadian businessperson Stephen Bronfman, whose father was the original owner of the Montreal Expos, recently reached an agreement with a developer to potentially build a new stadium in the Montreal area.

A baseball team splitting time between two locations isn’t completely unprecedented, with the Expos having played 22 home games in Puerto Rico in 2003.

It is unclear what the team would be called, or where playoff games would be held.

Tampa Bay has struggled to draw fans to Tropicana Field for years, and currently ranks second-lowest in average attendance despite the Rays owning a 43-31 record in 2019.

Montreal hasn’t had a baseball franchise since the Expos moved to Washington prior to the 2005 season. The city has hosted Toronto Blue Jays exhibition games in each of the past six years.

The proposal likely wouldn’t take effect until approximately 2023, as the team must be granted permission to move from the city of St. Petersburg, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Other hurdles include approval from the MLB Players Association, scheduling logistics, and negotiating television rights.

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