The Toronto Blue Jays battle the New York Mets this weekend in a couple of exhibition games that mean next to nothing for the two teams, but everything for the baseball-starved city of Montreal.
Montreal misses its Expos desperately. In a city so rich with sporting history and support, the void left by the Expos skipping town for Washington back in 2005 is still evident in 2014. Walk down Rue Crescent or Rue Peel and try to keep track of how many Expos caps you see. Of course it’s the retro fashion, but it’s not just that – Montrealers care deeply about the Expos franchise.
There’s a movement afoot to bring a MLB franchise back to Montreal and this is a major opportunity for the city to show its support. That’s exactly what has happened. A day before the opening pitch, ticket sales have reportedly eclipsed 80,000 for the series with some expecting that number to crack 100,000 after walk-up sales.
Montreal is doing everything it can to remind fans of the good ol’ days too. Friday’s contest features a pregame ceremony to honour the late Gary Carter, who starred for both the Expos and Mets.
The Jays are listed as a -140 favorite in Friday’s game in Sports Interaction’s MLB odds.
“There were great memories with both teams,” Carter’s widow Sandy Carter told reporters. “It’s hard to pick one. The World Series, of course was wonderful . . . but we loved our time with both teams. When he retired, I was so happy he didn’t have to pick which cap he would wear (the decision fell to the Hall of Fame). His heart would have been torn between the Expos and Mets.”
Carter won’t be the only former Expo honoured this weekend, but Friday’s game will serve as a thank you to his family.
“For us, it was important to do something for Expos fans and do something for one of the greatest players, Gary Carter,” Simon Arsenault of Evenko, told reporters. “It was a chance to remember all these great people.”
This is a perfect timing for such an event for Grantland writer Jonah Keri, who just released a new book chronicling the history of the Expos, “Up, Up and Away.” He too will be making the rounds this weekend with various book signings and appearances.
“We wanted to create kind of festival of baseball. We wanted to do a celebration of baseball because baseball means a lot for people from Quebec,” Arsenault added.