July 23, 2013 3:48 pm

Baseball back in Montreal? Some are pushing hard for it

Montreal Expos fans fill an outfield section during AL action between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto on Saturday July 20, 2013.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – The Expos may have left Montreal nearly a decade ago, but some are working overtime to bring them back.

A team of businessmen,  lawyers, former players and fans – all united by their love for the team nicknamed “Nos Amours” – has been making waves about a potential return of Major League Baseball to the city.

Over the weekend, a group sporting jerseys, signs and caps in the team’s honour, attended a Blue Jays game in Toronto.

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The get-together event’s organizers estimate about 1,000 Expos fans packed the bleachers at the Rogers Centre.

This has renewed discussion and debate among Montreal sports fans.

A major “feasibility study” into what bringing back a professional baseball club would entail was announced earlier in the spring and is already underway.

Sylvie Paquette, the media relations adviser at the Montreal Board of Trade, indicated that results of the feasibility study would be announced in the fall.

The Board of Trade is paying half the $400,000 cost of the study.

Montreal Baseball Project is the group that is largely shepherding the movement. Warren Cromartie, its president and founder, struck a note of cautious optimism on Tuesday.

“We have an open line of communication with Major League Baseball,” said Cromartie, a former outfielder for the Expos in the 1970s and 1980s, in an interview with Global News.

“I am pleased with where we are [but] there’s a whole lot of homework to do. We have to cross our t’s and dot our i’s,” he added.

Watch: Remember (A Tribute to the Montreal Expos) by Annakin Slayd

Matthew Ross, the president and founder of Expos Nation, a grass-roots organization representing the fans,  made it clear that he thought a new team in Montreal would not suffer the fate of the franchise that left for Washington in 2004.

Poor ownership, the 1994 MLB strike, the loss of major players like Pedro Martinez because of salary issues, and the Quebec government’s opposition to the construction of a new downtown stadium were all factors that gradually led to a decline in the franchise’s fortunes.

These problems, Ross insisted, would not repeat themselves if baseball were to return.

“The biggest game-changer is the need for content on specialty media,” said Ross, pointing to the potential for a “bidding war” between channels like RDS and TVA Sports for broadcast rights.

Specialty rights and a new stadium.

For all their guarded optimism, even the most hardcore ball fans should not expect to be booking season tickets in the near future.

When asked what year a new team could start playing in Montreal under fans’ best-laid plans, Ross answered that it was “hard to say.”

A call by Global News to the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball in New York City was not returned at the time this story was posted.

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