This past week I’ve had the chance to go watch the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium in Montréal. I’ve been 2 years before and it seems like every time I go I reconsider my opinions about whether or not baseball should return to Montréal. In my first year, the Blue Jays were playing a Saturday game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of about 45 000. It’s the largest crowd I’ve ever seen but the fans weren’t really into it. So I thought no, they shouldn’t get one. The next year it’s Vlad Jr.’s first game in the place he was born and the crowd overall was better but the attendance was about 26 000. Now in a smaller but mightier crowd this year, I truly have understood why the fans keep going, and it has nothing to do with the Blue Jays.
The fans aren’t there to cheer on the Blue Jays or care if they win or lose, the fans want their team back, one to call their own. While chanting “Bo Bichette” for the next couple of years may be good enough, it doesn’t measure up to the passion the Expos brought to the city of Montréal. Although there are certain barriers from bringing the Expos back to Montréal at the major league level, the city of Montréal became a viable market for the Major Leagues after decades of proving they’re great minor league fans.
While the direction of Stephen Bronfman and associates are focused on bringing a Major League team to Montréal, a minor league team would help contribute to the demand Montréal baseball fans have been craving to have a baseball team in the city. Looking at cities like Baltimore, Atlanta, Toronto, and even Montréal, all of these towns had a minor league team until the Majors thought it would be a good idea to expand to their markets. As Canadian teams have played in the International League before, it’s not a problem for them to re-enter, and as Montréal has a stadium (they can play in for a few years before a new one is built) and a big population, they could easily support one. As the only Canadian Minor League team is in Vancouver, bringing Minor League Baseball to the East Coast of Canada, could help grow the game in Québec.
Although some would be concerned about a Minor League team staying too long that would hinder them from getting a team, this actually would not be the case. Atlanta only had a minor league team for four years before the Braves came from Milwaukee in 1966. Baltimore’s Triple-A team ( the Orioles) were able to have a team until 1953, with the St. Louis Browns moving to start in Baltimore in 1954. So if Montréal were to get a Major League team, it would be easy to move them. A minor league team may not be the answer Montréal fans hope for, but it’s a better solution than maintaining the same course. A minor league team would give Montréal fans the chance to prove themselves 72 nights a year instead of 2 nights, and will finally give the fans something to truly cheer about.