Major League Baseball returns to Montréal

Richard Burnett

Some 100,000 baseball fans are expected to attend two Toronto Blue Jays pre-season baseball games versus the St. Louis Cardinals on March 26 and 27 at Olympic Stadium. It is the fifth straight year that the Blue Jays have played pre-season games in Montréal which – combined with the annual Expos Fest Celebrity Gala – is the local sports highlight of the year for many baseball fans far and wide.

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The Blue Jays versus the Cardinals

The Blue Jays will play a two-game pre-season series against the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium on March 26 and 27. After drawing some 100,000 spectators each of its first three years, more than 95,000 baseball fans attended last year. 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.

“We always look forward to playing in front of our fans in Montréal,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a release. “The atmosphere at Olympic Stadium over the last few years has been truly special, and is a reminder of the passion for baseball that exists in Québec.”

Expect former Montréal Expos to take to the field in pre-game ceremonies at the Big O. Adding to the excitement will be Blue Jays All-Star catcher Russell Martin who grew up in the Montréal borough of NDG and was first drafted by the Montréal Expos in the 35th round of the 2000 MLB June Amateur Draft.

Game time for both matches on March 26 and 27 is 7:05 p.m. For tickets, visit evenko.ca.

Expos Legends attend Expos Fest

The 2018 Blue Jays pre-season series against the Cardinals will be preceded by the 3rd annual Expos Fest Celebrity Gala, when former Montréal Expos greats – including Rusty Staub, the beloved redheaded Expos icon famously dubbed “Le Grand Orange” by local baseball fans – will raise money for the Kat D DIPG Foundation at the Montréal Children’s Hospital.

In addition to Staub, other Expos participating in the Expos Fest are John Wetteland, Darrin Fletcher, Jose Vidro, Chris Speier, Ellis Valentine, Ken Hill, Steve Rogers, Orlando Cabrera, Derek Aucoin, Bill Lee and legendary third baseman Larry Parrish.

“Parrish refuses to fly in a plane, so he will be driving up to Montréal from Atlanta!” says Expos Fest organizer Perry Giannis, who also owns “the biggest private collection of Expos memorabilia in the world.”

To date Expos Fest has raised over $225,000 for the Kat D Dipg Foundation (DIPG is an inoperable brain cancer affects children between the ages of 5 and 9). Giannis hopes this year’s edition will raise another $75,000. 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. Renowned Montréal baseball fan and rapper Annakin Slayd will perform, as will stand-up comic Gino Durante. The gala will be held in the Embassy Plaza in Laval on Sunday, March 25, beginning at 4:30 pm. For information and tickets, visit exposfest.com.

Montréal Baseball Hack Day 2018

The fourth annual Montréal Baseball Hack Day will be held at the Breather space in the Belgo Building on March 17, joining four other baseball-loving cities – Boston, Chicago, San Diego and Washington, DC – in a one-day event to encourage the development of baseball-related projects, partnerships and experiments with the goal of creating better ties between technology and sports communities. Click here to register (free admission).

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Wax Statue of The Kid

While visiting Montréal, do not forgot to check out the wax statue of beloved Montréal Expos icon Gary Carter – a.k.a. “The Kid” – at the Grévin Montréal wax museum.

The annual Expos Fest and Blue Jays games are now the biggest celebration of Major League Baseball in Montréal each year, and are often cited as indicators that the city – where Jackie Robinson broke pro baseball’s colour barrier with the legendary Montréal Royals in 1946 – is primed for the return of a MLB franchise.

Richard Burnett

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.

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