10 in Their 20s – Support for the Montreal Expos

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(Host) Currently VPR is featuring a Monday morning series of commentaries from “10 in Their 20s,” in which members of Vermont’s 20-something generation share their perspectives on issues that matter the most to them – from the local to the global. This week Sean Cooley reflects on the future of major league baseball in our region.

(Cooley) It was a Saturday in April. Baseball fans were gathered at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for the Expos second home game of the season. The stadium should have been packed for opening day weekend, but it wasn’t. There were 6,899 in the stands. Trouble was, there was enough room for nearly 40,000 more.

The Montreal Expos have fallen victim to an appalling loss of fan support. Montreal has ranked dead last in average home game attendance for the past three years.

The situation has become so desperate that, for a second straight season, Major League Baseball has scheduled the Expos to play a third of their home games almost 2,000 miles away in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When a major league ball club needs to outsource to Puerto Rico, there’s a problem.

Left without a true a fan base in Montreal, this team has become a band of baseball nomads. Eventually they may be relocated to Washington D.C. or Portland, Oregon.

Desperate times call for drastic measures, so I decided to go see an Expos game while I still can.

Olympic Stadium is less than two hours away from Burlington. The next closest MLB team is the Boston Red Sox, who play three hours away from Burlington. Admission is less than $8 American and tickets are never hard to find.

Olympic Stadium looks like futuristic space ship, as if the Expos were going to beam down from Mars. On the inside is Olympic Stadium’s infamous permanently retracted dome. The gapping hole in the ceiling is covered by a huge baby blue tarp wired to a skyscraper outside the park. It’s kind of bizarre looking at first, but I like to think of it as a baseball version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In the stands some fans are actually wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys. Maybe they’re too preoccupied with hockey scores to care much about the game in front of them. Or maybe they’re disillusioned with a team that has lost potential hall-of-famers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Vladimir Guerrero, and Javier Vazquez.

Regardless, the 2004 Expos are unique and exciting in their own right. Their Star shortstop is from Colombia, their best pitchers come from Venezuela and Japan. Player’s names are announced in both English and French. It’s like being at a Baseball United Nations.

I guess what it boils down to for me is this: the Montreal Expos may not be the best in the majors – okay, okay, they’re actually the worst in the majors –
but they still know how to play the game.

I’m Sean Cooley in Colchester.

Sean Cooley is a baseball fan and a journalism student at St. Michael’s College. The Music was performed by Bob Merrill.

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