Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Will Test Montréal’s Baseball Appetite In Their Next Preseason Series

The Jays have officially announced that the St. Louis Cardinals will be their opponent for the fifth iteration of their preseason baseball series in Montréal, with two games taking place next March 26th and 27th. A Monday and a Tuesday.

As I noted when the Jays’ 2018 schedule was released, the Montréal thing was going to be a bit tricky. Next season will be the first scheduled according to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement signed last December. Those terms include fitting in more off-days over the course of the season, and moving Opening Day from early in the first week of April to Thursday, March 29th. Generally teams get a day (maybe two?) between the end of their Spring Training schedule and the beginning of the season, which presumably forced the Jays to make a choice: hold the Montréal series on the Monday and Tuesday, or keep it on a Friday and Saturday, but then have to go back to Florida afterwards for a couple games to finish out the Grapefruit League (then fly back to Toronto for Opening Day).

I understand why the Jays, and especially their players, would find the latter option unpalatable, but one wonders if fans will think the same of the option they did choose.

I certainly hope not! And I certainly don’t think the stands will be barren, or anything approaching that. But the scheduling has clearly presented challenges in the fact that there will be far fewer Blue Jays fans willing to make the trip from Ontario (because it will mean taking days off work, obviously), not to mention the fact that the Canadiens will play a home game at 7 PM on the Monday night, as well.

Now, to be fair, I haven’t been to the last couple events, so I’m not sure how heavily populated with out-of-towners these things are at this point. I know that plenty of Jays fans appreciated the excuse to head up the 401 and have a party weekend in a great party town, but there are more than enough fans in the area to fill both the hockey rink and a baseball stadium for a night. Still, clearly this will shrink the potential customer base. Especially if the Habs are fighting for their playoff lives at that point, as they may well be, with just six games left on their schedule.

I mean, clearly those with money on the line think that such factors are not going to hamper attendance so much as to make it not worth doing — which I suppose would be hard, because I’m sure it’s damned lucrative to turn what would be a couple sparsely attended games at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium into a pair of enormous gates (which is why opposing teams keep signing on for these as well) — but whether there’s much change in the attendance figures will be an interesting thing to watch here. Particularly because of how vocal Montréal has been about MLB returning to the city.

Getting people out on weekends is one thing. Getting them out on a Monday and Tuesday in late March may prove to be another. But hey, I guess when you’re already this far down the road of exploiting the desperation of that city’s fans to get a team back, you might as well test their limits. *COUGH*

Hopefully the fans there respond. And based on the previous events the Jays have held there, I expect them to. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t making me a touch nervous.

There is so much obvious (baseball-related) good that would come from an expansion Expos team. Like a lot of Canadian fans, I can’t wait for the day that they return, even though I have no illusions about just how realistic it is that it will ever happen. There is work to be done yet by the folks who want to bring baseball back to Montréal, and though it’s unfair to, as usual, look at this novelty cash grab of a Blue Jays series as some kind of a serious test of the viability of that movement, how can it be looked at any other way? Anything but full-on embrace of these Monday and Tuesday games is probably going to undermine a whole lot of the great work that’s been done on this front in recent years — maybe not in the eyes of reasonable and rational people, but in plenty of peoples’ eyes nonetheless.

Fingers crossed that it works. (At least until we get to see Vlad Jr. make an appearance at the Big O!)

  • Matt E

    Having made the trek to Montreal for these games the last few years, the novelty’s starting to wear off on me. I still highly recommend spending a week in Montreal, but the game itself was the least-fun part of the trip last year.

    If you’ve never been to a game at the Big O, it’s worth going once, for the sheer weird spectacle of it. But if the nostalgia & pomp & Expos-iness is lost on you, you quickly realize you’re on a tin seat in the far-flung upper deck of a dilapidated football stadium watching minor-league exhibition baseball at $40 a ticket.

    Getting to the stadium’s a mess, for starters. Everyone takes the subway, which means 40,000 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder on station platforms and trains, and then once you get there, 40,000 people squeezing through the single narrow tunnel that connects the subway to the stadium. The inside of the stadium’s a weird, abandoned 60s spectacle, like exploring a condemned building. The only alcoholic drinks for sale in the whole stadium that I know of are small 10-oz. plastic cups of Bud or Bud Lite, $10 each. Don’t drink too many: washrooms in the upper deck have about 4 urinals/stalls per section, which can mean wait times of an entire inning. The crowd (particularly the Friday night crowd) is oddly full of drunken bozos for an exhibition game, last year in our section we had fights, ejections, and a drunk guy in a bachelor party projectile-vomit all over the row in front of him.

    I still think it’s a spectacle you should experience at some point in your life! But if you don’t live in Montreal and/or you’ve been to the Big O already and have no strong nostalgic reason for going again, eh – maybe just visit Montreal anyways but skip the game.

  • Oakville Jays

    I think it will be very tough for this event to sell out. Playing this game during weeknights with the Habs probably still in playoff race will be a tough draw. The Cards aren’t a big draw for Expos fans. The tickets aren’t cheap either.