Major League Baseball returns to Montréal
Tens of thousands of baseball fans are expected to attend two Toronto Blue Jays pre-season baseball games versus the Milwaukee Brewers on March 25 and 26 at Olympic Stadium. It is the sixth straight year that the Blue Jays have played pre-season games in Montréal, which – combined with the annual Gala de célébrités Expos Fest – is the local sports highlight of the year for many baseball fans far and wide.
The Blue Jays versus the Brewers
The crowd is a lively mix of Blue Jays fans and loyal fans of the Expos, the fabled MLB franchise that played in Montréal before moving to Washington, DC, at the end of the 2004 season.
Former Montréal Expos will take to the field in pre-game ceremonies at the Big O to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Expos, whose inaugural season was in 1969. Expos stars participating are Larry Walker – who has a very good chance of induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown in 2020, his 10th and final year on the ballot – Jose ‘CoCo’ Laboy, Brad Wilkerson, Mike Fitzgerald, Steve Renko, Ross Grimsley and Javier Vasquez, as well as iconic Expos field coach Felipe Alou. They will be joined by three Quebecers who pitched for the Expos: Claude Raymond, Denis Boucher and Derek Aucoin.
Alou will take part in both opening ceremonies.
Game time for both matches is 7:05 pm. For tickets, visit evenko.ca.
Expos Legends attend Expos Fest
The 2019 Blue Jays pre-season series against the Brewers will be preceded by the 4th annual Gala de célébrités Expos Fest, when former Montréal Expos greats – Livan Hernandez, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Tim Burke and Bill “Spaceman” Lee, in addition to all those attending the Expos pre-game ceremonies at Olympic Stadium – will raise money for the Kat D DIPG Foundation at the Montréal Children’s Hospital (DIPG is an inoperable brain cancer that affects children between the ages of 5 and 9).
Other guests include Montréal Canadiens fan favourite Shayne Corson, as well as Montréal native and General Hospital soap star William Devry. La Voix season 3 finalist Rosa Laricchiuta will perform. The gala will be held in the Embassy Plaza in Laval on Sunday, March 24, beginning at 4:00 pm. For information and tickets, visit exposfest.com.
Tickets to the gala are $150 ($100 tax-deductible) and include a four-course meal with beer and wine, plus an autograph session with all the former Expos players.
Expos Fest is organized by Perry Giannias, who also owns the world’s largest private collection of Expos memorabilia, which you can see here.
Tribute to Jackie Robinson
This season, Major League Baseball will honour the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jackie Robinson, who was born on January 31, 1919. Robinson broke pro baseball’s colour barrier with the legendary Montréal Royals in 1946 before being called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Jackie and his wife Rachel Robinson were widely loved in Montréal, where, during the Royals’ 1946 season, local baseball fans jeered and booed visiting teams whose racist players and fans gave Jackie a hard time on the road.
Also, be sure to visit the statue of Jackie Robinson outside the main entrance to Olympic Stadium.
Wax Statue of The Kid
While visiting Montréal, do not forget to check out the wax statue of beloved Montréal Expos icon Gary Carter – a.k.a. “The Kid” – at the Grévin MONTRÉAL wax museum.
Grand Chelem Ball Centre
Located near Olympic Stadium is the Grand Chelem Ball Centre, which is home to three professional batting cages, a Made-in-Québec ball shop and a licensed resto-bar. Test your swing in the cages and play a baseball pinball or video game while watching baseball up on the big screen.
Richard Burnett, blogger
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.