SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Montreal Expos are headed back
to Puerto Rico -- even though they may not recognize the stadium.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium has undergone major renovations since the
Expos played 22 "home" games there last season.
The stadium's capacity has been increased by about 6,000 to
accommodate 20,000 fans. There are also more outfield seats, new
artificial turf, a new scoreboard and renovated locker rooms.
Local authorities and promoter Antonio Munoz hope the
improvements will convince major league officials that Puerto Rico
has the ability to be the Expos' permanent home.
Montreal -- missing departed Latin stars Vladimir Guerrero and
Javier Vazquez -- is scheduled to play 22 games in San Juan's
beginning with a series against the New York Mets this weekend and
one against defending champion Florida early next week.
In May, the Expos host Milwaukee and San Francisco. Toronto,
Atlanta and Pittsburgh come in July.
Munoz's company MB Sports paid $10 million to Major League
Baseball to bring the games this season after paying $6.6 million
The Puerto Rican businessman submitted a formal proposal to
relocate the Expos to the island, competing with groups from
Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas and
The commissioner's office has said that it hopes to have a
decision on the team's future by the All-Star break in July.
One of the main obstacles that could thwart Puerto Rico's bid is
that the stadium does not have a capacity for more than 30,000
people, making it necessary for more renovations or a new ballpark.
The Expos were bought by Major League Baseball's 29 other teams
before the 2002 season.