The Toronto Blue Jays finished their 2017 spring training season with a tie and win with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Olympic Stadium in Montréal. The 1-1 tie was stopped after 9 innings Friday night while the Blue Jays won 6-4 on Saturday afternoon.
The game outcome isn't as important as the once a year reminder that there used to be a MLB team in Quebec called the Montréal Expos. Olympic Stadium looked mostly as it is has even in the days of Les Expos but there was a new outfield wall and new bullpens for 2017.
Tim Raines was honoured before the game Friday night on his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. Raines was joined by several of his Expos teammates, including Steve Rogers, Al Oliver, Bill Lee, Jeff Reardon, and Dennis Martinez.
The Saturday pregame ceremony honoured MLB players from La Belle Province. Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was among the honorees as well as Éric Gagné, Philippe Aumont, Denis Boucher, Claude Raymond, Derek Aucoin, Steve Green, Eric Cyr, and Raymond Daviault.
Raymond pitched, coached, and broadcast mostly in French but a season in English for Les Expos. Boucher is one of 4 Canadians (along with Matt Stairs, Rob Ducey and Shawn Hill) to play for the Blue Jays and Expos. Aucoin pitched 2 games for the Expos in 1996. Gagné pitched against the Expos while as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Besides being from Montréal, Martin now has a baseball field in his name in Chelsea, Quebec, which is about 10 km north of Ottawa. Martin grew up with his mother in Chelsea while spending time with his dad in Montréal. The Jays Care Foundation has invested $150,000 in Russell Martin Field in Chelsea, Quebec.
Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium in Montréal
|April 1, 2017||Pittsburgh||Toronto 6-4||52,202|
|March 31, 2017||Pittsburgh||Tie 1-1||43,180|
|April 2, 2016||Boston||Boston 7-4||53,420|
|April 1, 2016||Boston||Boston 4-2 (10)||52,682|
|April 4, 2015||Cincinnati||Toronto 9-1||50,231|
|April 3, 2015||Cincinnati||Cincinnati 2-0||46,314|
|March 29, 2014||NY Mets||Toronto 2-0||50,229|
|March 28, 2014||NY Mets||Toronto 5-4||46,121|
The 2017 version drew 95,382 over 2 days, the lowest total in the 4-year run. The Boston combo of 106,102 was off the charts because of the regional interest. Then again, Sunday's total of 52,202 was the 2nd best for a Sunday and 3rd best overall.
The Friday night attendance was the worst of the series, but 43,180 is still remarkable for a game that doesn't count.
Tim Raines also got to go in the Rogers Sportsnet booth in the 3rd inning Friday night. Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler talked to Raines about a number of topics, especially the Hall of Fame announcement. They showed Raines dropping the puck at the Bell Centre when the Canadiens hosted Florida. Raines didn't think he did a good job but the drop looked fine.
The 2 days were light on Expos content. The broadcast sneaked the Expos into an interview with Jason Grilli. This is the veteran's first spring training with the Blue Jays after being acquired last season. Turns out that Grilli hit his only major league home run against the Expos at Olympic Stadium in 2001. Grilli is one of 5 active players who have played at Olympic Stadium. Bartolo Colon, the last remaining Montréal Expo in Major League Baseball, starts the season with Atlanta in 2017.
Despite a "springtime snowfall," Olympic Stadium was in good enough shape for the games. The roof collapse in 1999 sparked a set of rules that involve snow, freezing rain, or ice totals.
This is generally why the exhibition MLB games and March games with the Montréal Impact haven't been an issue but the potential scheduling of Grey Cups have been a concern.
Thank goodness your humble narrator was finally able to pull up Friday's game on MLB.TV. The MLB Network rebroadcast of the game was not very kind to the shots of fans. The channel allowed a 3-hour block. If the game ran past that mark, then some of the program would have to be cut. The channel could easily have shown every second carried on Rogers Sportsnet.
Instead, the MLB Network crammed the rebroadcast into a 2½ hour block. Why? To show a repeat of studio stuff.
We accept that the opening of the stadium in Atlanta is a good reason not to show the Montreal game live. But at least respect that this isn't a random mid-March Grapefruit or Cactus league game. Showing the long-suffering Montreal fans be happy is part of the fun of the telecast.
Friday night drew a smaller crowd but the game was also a bit of a snoozer. The game featured 2 runs and the Blue Jays only had 5 hits in the opening game.
Jameson Taillon ended up starting Friday for Pittsburgh. Taillon pitched for Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic but not in 2017. Taillon pitched 3 innings giving up 3 hits and 1 run, a walk, and 2 strikeouts.
Eric Wood, who did play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, got a single in the 9th inning Friday. On Saturday, Wood went 1-for-3 with a RBI single in the 5th inning.
photos credit: MLB/Rogers Sportsnet/MLB Network except for Quebec players photo, TVA Sports
Twitter capture: Twitter/Canadian_xing