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Montreal on tap to host MLB series in 2016?

Olympic Stadium, Montreal

Montreal could host an MLB series in 2016, as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre pitched games at Olympic Stadium to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was reportedly receptive to the idea.

The pitch from Coderre was the latest in a series of efforts to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal and reclaiming the basically lost legacy of the Expos. A group led by former Expo Warren Cromartie laid the foundation for an MLB return with market reports indicating Montreal had the financial wherewithal to support a team (albeit with a big caveat: an ownership group with deep pockets would be required). The last two spring-training seasons saw large crowds at the Big O to see the Toronto Blue Jays host weekend games, prompting Manfred to declare there was a path to Montreal and MLB reuniting. Now Coderre is seeking to take the next step in Manfred’s road map and have the city host regular-season games. From the National Post:

The goal of the encounter was to show Manfred that Montreal is “serious about baseball,” said Denis Coderre, who explained the city’s strategy toward acquiring a team either through expansion or the relocation of an existing franchise.

Coderre wouldn’t give details about that strategy but said demonstrating to the league that Montreal can fill the Olympic Stadium for games in June or July is the “next step” in bringing a team back to the city.

He said Manfred was impressed by the fact the four preseason MLB games the city has hosted in the past two years — two in 2014 and two this year — were near sellouts and he “didn’t close the door at all” to his request for several regular-season games next year.

That is, of course, not exactly a firm commitment on Manfred’s part, although Coderre did say six or seven teams expressed interest in playing in Montreal for a single series. And while a 2016 series would be more proof of Montreal’s ability to support MLB, there are two essential ingredients before any serious talk can begin: the aforementioned ownership group with deep pockets, and a solid ballpark plan. Neither has emerged, and until one does, Montreal and MLB will remain a pleasant notion.

But one does sees the appeal of MLB returning to Montreal. When the Expos were at their peak and the Big O was rocking with fans, Montreal was amongst the best-drawing teams in baseball and every game was an experience. A Montreal Expos game was unlike any other MLB game: between the tastefully flashy uniforms and the bilingual game experience, Olympic Stadium presented a unique baseball experience. And it’s that experience driving talk of MLB’s return to Montreal.

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