Baseball is back in the Big O, for the weekend anyway

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Toronto Blue_Jays

March 28, 2014 (ISN) – Montreal will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets for two games, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.

The pre-season games will once again turn the Olympic Stadium, or Big O, into the baseball field it once was — if only for 48 hours.

The Montreal Expos stopped playing 10 years ago, in 2004, when the team was moved to Washington, D.C.

The promoter, Evenko, hopes it’s the start of a new annual tradition. The games are nearly sold out.In 1994, the Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball when the players’ strike wiped out the World Series. In 2004, the team left for Washington, DC. And so 20 years after the parade that wasn’t, and 10 after the hollow feeling of that final game, MLB is passing through town for a couple days.

Awkward? A little. Emotional? Absolutely. But however embittered the locals are about the loss of their beloved Expos, the disillusionment won’t keep them home. Evenko, the entertainment company producing the games, said this week that nearly 75,000 tickets have been sold for the two days.

One thing we should make clear: At least in baseball’s corridors of power, the games aren’t viewed as a trial run before the imminent return of an MLB franchise to Montreal. Yes, at least one official from the commissioner’s office is expected to attend the games. Yes, for a variety of reasons, Montreal would be a better baseball market today than it was 10 years ago. (A recent feasibility study suggested as much.) But with no active efforts toward expansion or relocation by MLB, along with the recently diminished Canadian dollar, the possibility remains remote.

Mayor Denis Coderre will throw the first pitch at tonight’s game, which will also honour the late, great Expo Gary Carter.

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