Ultimate zombies

Washington Nationals move left fans in Montreal heartbroken

Originally Published: September 23, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN The Magazine

Pedro MartinezMitchell Layton/Getty ImagesIt's been years since Pedro Martinez was pitching, but love for the Expos still runs deep.

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FANS OF THE Washington Nationals must be heartless. At least according to long-live-the-Expos supporter Katie Hynes. "I don't know how people in Washington can even go to a game," the Montreal native says. "If you give me a team from another town, I know somewhere in that town a kid is crying."

The pain runs deep for Hynes, who says she attended all but a handful of Expos games at Olympic Stadium from 1977 to 2004. She saw the Expos post the best record in baseball in 1994 before a strike wiped out the season, and she was watching a decade later when the franchise was decimated before ultimately moving south of the border. Retorts Hynes: "The Expos didn't leave. They were pilfered."

Enter ex-Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie, who sees a brighter future for a franchise in Montreal. He founded the Montreal Baseball Project in 2012 and has already raised $400,000 for a feasibility study that is looking into what it would take to bring a big league team back to the city where Jackie Robinson played as a Dodgers minor leaguer in 1946. "Montreal has lost its swagger since the Expos left, but we're still a viable city, a hungry city," Cromartie says. (In fact, it's the biggest North American burg without a pro baseball club.)

Also moving the needle is ExposNation, which organized a fan gathering at a July 20 Blue Jays game in Toronto. While Youppi didn't make an appearance, a swath of the outfield section held more than 1,000 fans clad in the traditional red, white and blue.

Maybe it was more than a coincidence that the opponent at Rogers Centre that day was the Tampa Bay Rays, whose lack of fan support has raised questions about their future in Florida. Could the Gulf Coast's loss be Canada's gain? Too early to tell, but at least Florida fans will always have the Marlins. D'oh!

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Doug Mittler

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