Note: I’ve transcribed something I wrote in a notebook last year on August 12th in Minneapolis during a trip I took to watch some baseball games. Re-reading it, I like it, so I’m offering it to the world here. It’s about baseball. It’s about the Montreal Expos. It’s about what my baseball trip in the summer of 2016 got me thinking about. As I head to Montreal with my Dad to take in some preseason baseball, this is also about what I hope will happen one day.
August 12, 2016 – Minneapolis, MN USA
Two games and a rainout later, I can’t shake the feeling of what might be. A smallish downtown ballpark, a small market almost contracted into oblivion like what threatened my Expos. A northern city. A second sport city. It’s striking really. In between innings here, if I squint just enough and let my mind wander, I can almost imagine the same scene in Montreal.
I came to Minneapolis, in part, because of early days visits to Montreal. The thrill of the event in the Big O left an imprint on me. Growing up, baseball was everything. Ask me Al Oliver’s stats from 1983 and I can quote them to you. Between early life fanaticism, then growling older and wiser, baseball was always floating around in my mind. It’s something my dad and I have in common, and I love it for that alone.
Then 1994 happened. I was in college and studying hard, had a girlfriend, and an Expos season for the ages stopped. Bitter, my focus left baseball for a while. The Expos were terrible for a long stretch. But still, every time in Montreal I would head to a game or two, and that feeling would return. Even as I was disengaging from baseball, every time I was back in the Big O, beer in hand, there was something magical dancing inside me.
When my Expos left, I was done – on to other things. But time, the healer of all things, passed. Gary Carter, my childhood idol, died. Some initially crazy talk of bringing back the Expos started sounding less ridiculous. And my heart, so familiar with baseball, started to love again.
Going to games, like this week in Minneapolis, taps something nostalgic in an otherwise very much not nostalgic me. I could spend entire summers coming out to the park. Five games at Target Field, and by the end, I’m sure I’ll continue to dream about what summer baseball trips back to Montreal might be like. Notwithstanding the economics of it, I think it would work in Montreal. Why? We know what we lost. Minneapolis is the model. Trade a dome for outdoor baseball. Connect the stadium with the city. Bars and restaurants for pre and post-game activities. Drop this same model in Montreal, add a touch of French élan, and presto… you’d have the best environment and experience in all of baseball. Keep everything Minneapolis has figured out, then add those wacky twists from the 1980s – the oompah bands, the scoreboard chickens, the outlandish uniforms. Being outdoors in summer is Montreal. April and September cold games or the occasional snow-delayed game? Who cares – summer, outside and a drink – it would be an immediate winner.
Three games to go here at Target and this will continue to be on my mind. What if?