Over 100,000 baseball fans will attend two Toronto Blue Jays preseason games versus the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 31 and April 1 at Olympic Stadium, where Montréal Expos icon and 2017 National Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines will be honoured in a pregame ceremony.
This is the Jays’ fourth annual preseason weekend in Montréal. After drawing nearly 100,000 spectators each of its first two years, more than 106,000 baseball fans attended last year. The 2017 weekend series will be followed by the 2nd annual Expos Fest on April 2, when former Montreal Expos superstars – including Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson – will raise money for the Kat D DIPG Foundation at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Five legendary Montreal Expos in town for the Expos Fest – Dennis Martinez, Bill Lee, Al Oliver, David Palmer and Jeff Reardon, as well as former Expos great Steve Rogers – will be on hand when Raines is honoured during the March 31 pregame show.
As Raines told me when he was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013, “I was 19 turning 20 when I first came to Montreal. I was an immature young man in a big city for the first time and the fans there welcomed me with open arms. I remember every bit of it. I’m proud to have been a Montreal Expo. Today is one of the proudest moments in my career. And should I ever make it to Cooperstown, I will be very proud to be inducted in a Montreal Expos cap.”
Raines will be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, on July 30.
Meanwhile, Raines’ mentor Andre Dawson will participate in the April 2 charity fundraiser Expos Fest which runs from 10 am to 5 pm at the Plaza Centre Ville / EvoCentre. Visit www.exposfest.com for details about admission, autographs, photos and VIP meet-and-greets.
Other former Expos participating are Rondell White, Bob Bailey and Cliff Floyd, as well as former Los Angeles Dodgers ace reliever Eric Gagné who, says Expos Fest organizer Perry Giannias, “is a local hero who has done so much for Québec baseball.”
Renowned Montréal baseball fan Annakin Slayd and his band will also perform.
“Expos Fest raised close to $60,000 last year and our Gala last November over $50,000 for the Kat D Dipg Foundation,” says Giannias, who points out that DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) affects children between the ages of 5 and 9. “It is important to raise money for the Kat D Dipg Foundation – named for my late five-year-old niece Catherine (Kat) Demes – because only one percent of all cancer dollars goes into research for the number one killer of children, brain tumours.”
Giannias says Expos Fest is “designed to celebrate the family, children and then our Expos. Montréal holds a special place in the hearts of everyone who has ever played ball here, and I also hope that Expos Fest has awakened our passion for the return of baseball in Montréal.”
The annual Expos Fest and Blue Jays games are now the biggest celebration of Major League Baseball in Montréal each year, and are often cited as indicators that the city – where Jackie Robinson broke pro baseball’s colour barrier with the legendary Montréal Royals in 1946 – is primed for the return of a MLB franchise.