Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he’s looking forward to meeting with the commissioner of Major League Baseball at the end of the month in his ongoing quest to see the sport return to the city.
Coderre says his meeting with Rob Manfred on May 28 in New York City will be a first opportunity for the two to chat face-to-face.
"We will show Mr. Manfred our love for the sport," Coderre said in an interview Thursday. "I don’t want to negotiate openly, but we’ll clearly talk about Montreal."
The meeting comes after a second successful exhibition series involving the Toronto Blue Jays this year that drew large crowds to the Olympic Stadium.
The city has been without a franchise since the Montreal Expos last played in 2004.
Manfred said recently that Montreal had successfully passed the first test toward a return of baseball to the city: demonstrating great interest. Next would be to meet several other criteria, including a proper baseball stadium.
"The key thing in Montreal would be to have a plan for an adequate facility that could support baseball over the long haul," Manfred told The Canadian Press in March.
During a subsequent stop in Toronto, Manfred said he’d welcome a meeting with Coderre. So Coderre will take him up on the offer, calling it the next step in the process to demonstrate that Montreal is a place MLB should want to be.
"We need a plan, we need a step-by-step approach," Coderre said. "You don’t pull the flower to make it grow faster."
Matthew Ross, president and founder of Expos Nation, a grassroots group dedicated to promoting baseball in Montreal, welcomes Coderre’s meeting.
"It’s a tremendously positive thing because the mayor is such an ambassador, not just for the city but for Major League Baseball coming back to Montreal," he said.
Ross said it’s still early, but Coderre can answer questions about where the city and province stand in terms of support and whether new infrastructure can be supported.
There’s little doubt that Montreal has shown interest: this year’s two games between the Blue Jays and the Cincinnati Reds drew 96,000, surpassing by 195 fans the figures for two Toronto games against the New York Mets in 2014.
"I think it’s unbelievable, especially when there’s no home team on the field," Ross said.
Ross expects a large contingent of Expos Nation supporters will travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., at the end of July to celebrate former Expos ace Pedro Martinez being among those inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
No one is talking time frame yet. Ross believes expansion is the best bet for Montreal and any team is five to seven years away.
Manfred, who took over as MLB commissioner in January following the retirement of Bud Selig, has said it’s impossible to prescribe a time.
Expansion and relocation are the possibilities, but the commissioner said the former is on the back burner for the league right now.
For his part, Coderre won’t talk deadlines.
"I’m not going to talk about years, why should I frame myself with years?" the loquacious mayor quipped.