Baseball in NDG? Pitch-and-catch rally keeps Expo hope alive
Watch above: ExposNation stopped by NDG to re-engage Montreal’s baseball fan base. As Global’s Billy Shields reports, fans of all ages came out to commemorate their team.
MONTREAL – The last time Autumn Chartier saw a baseball game, she couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, and didn’t remember a thing.
She wasn’t even a year old.
“I saw a lot of games,” said the 10-year-old.
“But I can’t remember any of them… “We would see a game every weekend.”
She’s part of a younger generation that fans of the long-departed Montreal Expos are hoping to entice to embrace baseball, as momentum grows in efforts to bring Major League Baseball (MLB) back to Montreal.
“We’re 10 years out from the last Expos home game,” said Matthew Ross, the president of Expos Nation, a fan club.
“This is sort of a rebirth – kids are getting out on baseball diamonds again and they miss professional baseball.”
Kids and adults took part in a pitch-and-catch rally at Loyola Park in Notre-Dame-de-Grace to commemorate the Expos last home game at the Olympic Stadium, a 9-1 loss to the Marlins on Sept. 29, 2004.
READ MORE: Baseball makes a comeback at the ‘Big O’
There are about 20 youth teams that call NDG home.
“We’ve sent teams to the nationals, and even teams to the (Little League) World Series in the United States,” said Ken Quinn, of NDG Baseball.
“Baseball is strong and vibrant here in NDG.”
It was an event tinged with bittersweet memories.
“I met Andre Carter when I was 10-years-old,” said Derek Aucoin, who pitched for the Expos in the late nineties.
He was “one of the greatest and the reason I wanted to play for the Expos.”
Organizers of efforts like this have taken an incremental approach to raising their profile.
A high-water mark occurred in March, when a game between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays filled the Big O to the rafters and made wistful fans believe that top-flight baseball could still work here.
Montreal is currently the largest market in North America without a pro baseball team of any type, but fans have endured a gauntlet of disappointments.
The Olympic Stadium, where the Expos called home for most of its life in Montreal, was always riddled with construction issues and saddled with debt.
There was the strike-shortened 1994 season, where a stellar Expos team – with the best record in the majors – never saw the postseason.
And there was the team’s departure a decade later.
But fans like Christopher Chartier, Autumn’s father, are still hopeful that good news is right around the corner.
“The fans are there, they’re willing,” he said.
“I mean, there were 100,000 thousand fans willing to see the Blue Jays,” he said with almost a giddy smile, “in Montreal!”
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