Friday, 6 April 2012

Montreal baseball news is bittersweet

Labatt Park - The Expos home that never was
As hardcore Montreal baseball fans, and closet fans who've not thought about the past time in several years, unite surrounding Warren Cromartie's recent Montreal Baseball Project press conference announcement, the whole thing is bittersweet for me.

I miss it. I miss it a lot. When the Expos left, I cried it out and moved on. Many years passed. I rooted somewhat for the Red Sox and it was okay. But something in me was awakened in July 2010, the month of Andre Dawson's Cooperstown induction. A TEAM 990 bus filled with passionate fellow baseball fans, complete with my dad alongside me, really ignited something from within. Combine that with the Annakin Slayd Remember the Expos anthem, and my Expos fever was out of control. Since then, I have done everything in my power to promote, encourage and perpetuate the Expos and the game of baseball in my city - and beyond.

Recently, limited free time has been spent searching for something to latch on to, be it video clips, interviews on my show with former players, story-sharing with fellow fans, etc... But it's never enough. It's a tease and it doesn't completely bring back the relaxed yet exciting feeling of walking into a ballpark, plunking down in my seat and taking in the sights and sounds, and appreciating all of the athletic yet cerebral action on the field.

So when I was able to cover a few baseball related items for the Montreal Gazette last summer, it was such an incredibly proud time in my career as a communications professional.

One of the things that I covered was the Rodger Brulotte story on how he had been approached by a group wanting to bring baseball back to Montreal. We never got any names out of him, and the story died off somewhat.

Then we had the group with Marc Griffin and Eric Gagne trying to build a minor league stadium in conjunction with Baseball Quebec. Many months later, we don't hear much out of them, either.

Now comes Warren, and his infectious passion and eloquence. Are we destined to once again hear nothing for months on end, following his June 1981 Expos celebration? I hope not.

As an impatient person by nature, it's hard to swallow these euphoric baseball city developments, only to once again be disappointed. It's almost like reliving the 1994 season. Such pain.

So two things need to happen here. First, all of these various factions have to get together and be on the same page, working as one cohesive and powerful lobby group. We saw how the Winnipeg Jets were reborn. Wow, that group was a well oiled machine. They brought in the Manitoba Moose, built an arena and then slowly impressed the NHL. Now that's how you resurrect a franchise.

The second aspect is a showcasing of fan passion. The world needs to see the city get excited and really WANT a team back in this market. As it is, the rest of Major League Baseball thinks that no one cares about the game here. Can you blame them? Something viral and magical and proactive has to take place. And I am not so sure any of these baseball factions can make it happen.

Anything's possible, we all know that. But we're looking at a six-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs.

Former Expos broadcasting legend Jacques Doucet is right. The Montreal Baseball Project does risk negatively impacting the Griffin and Gagne efforts. It's my hope that even if these two camps aren't working together, that they can at least cooperate and be kissing cousins.

Finally, I've thought a lot about the Brulotte-protected group trying to bring a major league team back. It just doesn't make any sense at this point why they would not want their names out there. With the current buzz happening, it would behoove them to take advantage of the climate and the people working towards baseball's return, and to go all out. I've often speculated that it's one particular media conglomerate, with multiple platforms to disseminate baseball content on.

Sadly, as the months go by and the curtain is not pulled back for the reveal, I doubt more and more the legitimacy of this group. That's not to say I am not rooting for its existence, ready to support the efforts in any way possible.

Time will tell how this all plays out. All I know is we are sans baseball for another summer and it sucks.

Listen to Game Points with Matthew Ross on TSN 990 Radio in Montreal every Tuesday 9pm-12am and Sunday 6-8pm. Follow on Twitter @TSNmatthew

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