Cromartie: Patience required for Montreal baseball bid

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MONTREAL – Warren Cromartie’s as optimistic as ever that baseball can again flourish in Montreal. Five years after founding the Montreal Baseball Project, the longtime Expos outfielder continues working to bring baseball back to Canada’s second-largest city.

But Cromartie recommends patience, especially in the aftermath of a Wednesday Canadian Press article which, citing an anonymous source, reported that a group of Montreal investors had met MLB’s conditions for getting a team. To suggest that such considerable momentum exists would be “premature” and “inaccurate” in Cromartie’s view.

“We don’t have anyone named anonymous or sources in the room,” Cromartie said over the phone Thursday. “When (the return of MLB to Montreal) does happen all the people involved will be front and centre and I’ll be among them. There won’t be any speculation.”

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre responded similarly Wednesday evening, when he wrote on Twitter that the CP article was misleading. Even with near-sellout crowds expected at Olympic Stadium for exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates Friday and Saturday, there’s only so much that Montreal fans can control.

“It’s a little premature, with the excitement of having more than 80,000 fans here for the weekend,” Cromartie said. “Take it for what it’s worth.”

Before Montreal can seriously contemplate the return of an MLB team, two other big-league clubs must determine whether viable stadium plans can be established in their current markets. 

“A couple things have to get taken care of,” said Cromartie, who played 1,038 games for the Expos from 1974-83. “The Oakland A’s situation and the Tampa situation.”

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Resolution in those cities is “absolutely” a prerequisite for baseball’s return to Montreal in Cromartie’s view. The A’s and Rays both say they expect to find long-term stadium sites in 2017, though challenges exist in both markets.

If either team encounters unexpected obstacles, Montreal could become a candidate for relocation. If both teams line up new stadiums, MLB would then consider expansion. Either way, there’s hope for fans who watched the Expos move to Washington, D.C., following the 2004 season, but some patience will be required.

“We have passionate fans in Montreal that want (a team) yesterday,” Cromartie said. “I think it’s probably going to be at least a couple years, but anything could happen at any moment.”

Cromartie hit .280 with a .335 on-base percentage in nine seasons with the Expos. When Montreal made its first and only playoff appearance in 1981, he batted .304 and finished 24th in NL MVP voting.

Now 63, Cromartie continues doing due diligence with his team at the Montreal Baseball Project to be sure they’re as prepared as possible should an opportunity for an MLB franchise arise. While that timeline’s largely out of their control, they’re confident they have the financial backing required to obtain a team. 

“We have some things in place that we’re very comfortable with,” Cromartie said. “We’ve done our homework. We’ve done our feasibility studies. We know what it’s going to cost.”

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