If you haven’t been to one of the Toronto Blue Jays exhibition games at Olympic Stadium over the last five years, let me paint the scene.
It’s honestly a weird mix of fans. But perhaps the biggest group are parents in Montreal Expos gear with children in Toronto Blue Jays gear. It’s hard to believe, but the city of Montreal is going on 14 years without a baseball team. That leaves a whole bunch of children who have only known the Toronto Blue Jays as Canada’s team.
It also means that those children have parents who, if they were baseball fans, grew up loving the Expos. And it’s a weird balancing act for organizers. Truthfully, they are running out of nostalgia to celebrate. The first year they honoured Gary Carter and the 1994 Expos team. They’ve honoured Blue Jay greats Roberto Alomar and Cito Gaston. They honoured every Quebec-born MLB player (really, they did). They’ve had Tim Raines, Steve Rogers, Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera, Warren Cromartie, and others come out. Some of them more than once.
And sure, it’s always fun to see a person who hasn’t been sent out yet like on Monday with Darren Fletcher and John Wetteland. But for every fan who remembers Jose Vidro was the all-star second baseman for the Expos, there are more who remember him for being the designated hitter for the Seattle Mariners or who don’t even know who he is.
It’s rare that the Expos fan parents and the Blue Jays fan child get to cheer for something together. Russell Martin brought those two sides together when he first arrived three years ago, in the second year of the Montreal series. But even that is old news now.
It’s rare to see something that you haven’t seen before. But when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got two standing ovations on Monday night, it was the perfect mix. It was the perfect moment. You had the nostalgia of the Expos fans, mixed with the optimism of Blue Jays fans. They may have been cheering for different reasons, but they were cheering the same. He represented the past and the future for father, mother, son, and daughter alike. And for a moment, he was the present.
People may think that putting Guerrero Jr. in this situation is too much pressure, but I don’t agree. It’s a great opportunity for top prospects like him and Bo Bichette to get a taste of bigger crowds against professional opponents.
The first time that the series came to Montreal, there were late-inning relief efforts from a couple of pitching prospects: Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, who just happened to make their Major League debuts later that season.