106,102. The Toronto Blue Jays didn't win either game at Olympic Stadium in Montréal over the weekend. But the number everyone will take away is the total attendance for the 2 games of 106,102. That mark is a 9.9% increase over the 2015 number of 96,545. The 2015 number was 0.2% higher than the 2014 number of 96,350.
Some of the initial charm is gone with this being the 3rd year in a row for the Blue Jays finishing their Grapefruit League season in La Belle Province.
The increase could be from having a regional opponent in the Boston Red Sox as the Blue Jays opponent. You can look at that as an excuse for increased attendance, but that would bode well for a future Montréal Expos team if that team was in the American League East. Having 2 significant opponents that will draw more fans would add stability to a potential Montréal Expos, part deux.
Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium in Montréal
|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|
Russell Martin, the hometown star, got a RBI single, which was good, but also got to do something really cool before the game. Martin got to walk around Olympic Stadium with the lit torch from the 1976 Olympic Games held in that stadium in Montréal. Hazel Mae noted that this year was far less stressful for Martin and he got to better appreciate the moment.
Tim Raines was interviewed in the booth by Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler. Raines talked about how the excitement of the Montréal fans inspired him on the field. When Raines would get on base, which was quite often, he said the fans were in anticipation of what he would do on the basepaths.
Hazel Mae interviewed Warren Cromartie of the Montréal Baseball Project and, of course, a former Expos outfielder. Cromartie said his group will kick it up a notch addressing issues from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Some of those issues include funding and where the new stadium will be located.
The late Jim Fanning was honored before the game on Saturday. Fanning was the first general manager of the Expos and later served as manager, including 1981, the only year the Expos made the playoffs. The number 6 was retired in Fanning's honor. Steve Rogers took part in the ceremony.
On the field, team threw minor leaguers to save the pitching staff for the start of the regular season. The regulars didn't play long on Saturday to save them for the opener on Sunday. If the team had started on Monday closer to Montréal, you would have seen more regular pitchers.
Pedro Martinez was in the Rogers Sportsnet booth after being acknowledged on the field before the game. In the pregame tribute, former Expos Tim Raines, Ellis Valentine, Marquis Grissom, Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Vidro, and Martinez. The Hall of Fame pitcher enjoyed getting a chance to tell the Montréal fans how much he appreciated them. You could tell in the interview that Martinez didn't enjoy his time in Los Angeles and feels Montréal was where his career really took off because Felipe Alou gave him a good chance from the start.
Michael Saunders has an intriguing perspective on the Blue Jays in Montréal. Saunders is from Victoria, BC, and while technically with the team last year, did not make the trip to Montréal. Saunders was interviewed in the 7th inning by the Blue Jays broadcasters. "Especially with the electric atmosphere that's here right now. It's incredible. Clearly, baseball belongs in Montréal. It's an absolute privilege to play here."
Dave Dombrowski hasn't been the Boston general manager for that long, but the trip back to Montréal was a significant one. Dombrowski's first GM job was with Montréal in 1988 at the young age of 31. He served as GM until part way through the 1991 season.
"I love Montréal," Dombrowski said before the trip. "It’s a beautiful city. I'm looking forward to going back there because of all the memories and friends I have there." Martinez and Tabler talked about Dombrowski walking through his old Montréal neighborhood before Friday's game.
When Dombrowski was with the Montréal Expos, he took French lessons on the weekends and at night during the winter. Dombrowski did say that his French isn't as good these days.
On the field, Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders contributed the entire Toronto offense with solo home runs. The team had several good shots to add runs but couldn't come up with a clutch 2-out hit. In the 4th inning with 1 out, Saunders singled and was "thrown out" stretching the single into a double. This play would have been overturned in the regular season. Russell Martin was then hit by a pitch followed by a double by Justin Smoak. That would have scored Saunders allowing the Blue Jays to win in regulation.
Competing was going to be tough since the bullpen was left behind. Having to play Sunday all the way back in Florida meant being practical on the strategy in Montréal. You want to showcase your trip but you want to win when the games really count.
The telecast was slow to acknowledge the Montréal connection with nothing in the first 3 innings but did make up for it later. The on-air graphic was 2,000 fans short for Friday's attendance, posting a 50,682 number instead of the actual 52,682 number.
The bright yellow seats at Olympic Stadium can generate some amazing friction and loudness. I know that all too well from being there. The noise speaks to the passion of the Montréal baseball fans; even when they weren't large in numbers, they were still very loud.
The noise would be distracting to Expos opponents if MLB gives the city a team. We know the city needs to have a new downtown stadium. But Olympic Stadium might pass muster for a couple of seasons.
We saw a lot more shots from the left field seats. I don't remember seeing that view in the past couple of seasons. I did enjoy that view when I was there in 2002 to see the Expos.
Thanks to the MLB Network: these games in Montréal are obvious for the channel to carry. But the channel has been really good about carrying the games. We'd love to see the pregame as well, but thank you, MLB Network, for showing the U.S. how amazing Montréal baseball fans are.
While we saw quite a bit of Expos gear, there was quite a bit of Red Sox and Blue Jays flair in the crowd. Nostalgia is nice, but glad to see fans who are there to see their favorite team.
Realistically, It's been 12 years since the Expos were in Montréal. Men and women of a certain age remember fondly Les Expos from the past. But if you are a kid in Montréal, you really don't have first-hand experience with a team in your hometown; you might be more likely to be a Toronto or Boston fan in baseball.
This was the best headline from the weekend from the folks at Cut 4 through MLB.com.
The standing ovations referred mostly to the former Expos players introduced during the pregame ceremonies.
Story author Mike Bertha noted that the fans from Friday night at "The O were more than just a little excited, and they proved it by doling out a handful of standing ovations for some of the most charismatic stars to grace an MLB field over the last 20 years."
That also applies to the standing Os for hometown hero Russell Martin and legendary Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. The love for Ortiz also came from a considerable number of Red Sox fans in the Olympic Stadium stands.
photos credit: Montréal Expos/Facebook; rest taken by me with credit to MLB, MLB Network/Rogers Sportsnet
screen capture: MLB.com