In Montreal our number one team will always be the Canadiens, but that doesn't mean we can't dream of having another major professional sports team in this city. While just a few years ago the dream of pro baseball in Montreal seemed dead, there are small glimpses of hope on the horizon, such as Mayor Coderre's meeting with MLB's commissioner Rob Manfred back in May which lead to a hopefully prophetic tweet of "Play Ball!". Here are a few of the reasons why Montreal would (once again) make a great home for baseball.
1. Montreal has a rich baseball history
It can be easy to forget that Montreal once loved the American pastime with a passion. Besides the exploits of the Expos, Montreal also once had a minor league team called the Royals. Why is this important? Only because it was the professional springboard that got Jackie Robinson (the MLB's first black player) his start in pro baseball. In fact, Robinson fondly remembered Montreal crowds as some of the best he ever played for.
2. We can support more than one team
Yes, the Habs are by far and away the biggest sporting pull in this city but Montreal is big enough to sustain much more than just hockey. The Als and Impact do very well here. CFL playoff games bring huge crowds to the Olympic stadium, and the Montreal Grand Prix proves that people love coming to Montreal to see sporting events. Not to mention Montreal hosting one of the greatest Olympic games in modern history back in 1976. Our city can do sports and we can do it well.
3. Montreal has local owners who care
One of the biggest problems with baseball before its fall here in Montreal was atrocious ownership by outsiders who didn't care if baseball was played here or somewhere else. Today, Washington boasts a team full of bright young stars that by all accounts could have been ours. The Molson and Saputo families are proof that local magnates can manage business and sporting empires at once. The Habs continue to remain relevant despite the difficulty in attracting free agents because of currency conversion and the Impact have just brought in a former all-world soccer star in Didier Drogba. These moves are evidence that when an ownership group is connected to the city, they will find a way to manage their product well. We have done it before, we will do it again!
4. Canada (Quebec included) produces some serious MLB talent
Even if Canadians only make up a small percentage of MLB rosters, they have made serious marks on the game. Today, Toronto is able to put out lineups that are 1/3rd Canadian. It was in the years just before the Expo's were ripped away that Éric Gagné tore an MLB record 84 consecutive saves. We flat out produce some amazing athletes here and given the 11 million the city is investing in baseball diamonds for youth here, we can argue that we've never been in a better position to make a mark on this sport as well. Of course we want to export our talent all over the globe but how much sweeter could it be to watch hometown heroes succeed here?
5. Youppi needs to go home
The Canadiens saved the mascot when the Expos were dismantled and moved; I'm sure he's grateful, but isn't it time he went back to his original calling? It's time to give him a new home.