By: Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
It’s down the road but it’s something for Expos’ fans to keep in mind on their calendar.
It’s a fundraising event to raise awareness for the Kat D DIPG Foundation at Montreal Children’s Hospital. The date is April 3, a Sunday, that wraps up a great weekend that features the Blue Jays and Red Sox in a two-game exhibition series at Olympic Stadium April 1 and 2.
Former Expos’ greats Vladimir Guerrero, Andres Galarraga, Ellis Valentine, Marquis Grissom and Jose Vidro will be on hand for photo sessions, autograph signings and other functions on what should be an enjoyable day at Montreal’s Centre Ville at 777 Boulevard Robert Bourassa.
The event is slated to run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and is the brainchild of Expos superfan Perry Giannias, the uncle of Catherine Demes, a beautiful girl, who died much too young last summer at age 5 of a rare pediatric brain tumour.
“I always wanted to do something on the weekend of the Jays’ weekend games,’’ Giannias explained. “I was a bit frustrated. The Jays are in a rival city, God love them but I wanted to do something regarding the Expos. I wanted to do something very family-oriented.
“Not only do we want to raise money but create awareness of this rare cancer that took my niece Catherine. There are millions of cancers out there and people trying to get attention. I wanted to do something to create awareness of DIPG. It’s a living hell when you lose a young child like we did. The disease has a zero survival rate.’’
Who can forget Guerrero, Grissom and Valentine, three slick, talented outfielders, who had bats and arms to please everyone? There was Galarraga, the Big Cat, who could move around ever so quickly. There was Vidro, who enjoyed the finest season ever by an Expos second baseman when he hit .330 in 2000 with 101 runs, 51 doubles, 24 homers and 97 RBI.
Remember Derek Aucoin? He’ll be on hand to help out in the festivities. A 6-foot-7, 235-pound pitcher, Aucoin had a cup of tea with the Expos in 1996, appearing in two games.
Admission for Expos Fest is $7 per person with children 12 and under admitted free. There will be a batting cage for the kids and a few vendors will be on hand. One of the vendors on hand that day will be Giannias, whose Expos’ memorabilia collection of game-used goods is apparently something to behold.
“I got the first glove and the last glove Gary Carter ever wore in the majors,’’ Giannias said. “I have a lot of his stuff from his last year in the majors in 1992 with the Expos, his chest protector, his helmet. I have the last helmet Gary wore for his last hit over Andre Dawson’s head.
“I have one of Gary’s travelling suitcases. His wife Sandi was in town for the Mets and Jays series in 2013 and she saw me set up in a kiosk with his memorabilia. She saw the suitcase and she marvelled at it. I could never get the combination to open it. I didn’t want to ram it. She punched in 888 and it opened. There was nothing in it but it was really something. It was bittersweet.’’
When it comes to entertainment, you won’t want to miss rapper Annakin Slayd, whose love of the Expos is immeasurable. He will belt out two songs about mid-afternoon about the Expos: ’94 Fall and Remember. He is not to be missed that day. He will send chills up your spine and you might even shed a few tears.
Just think, Giannis is trying to get more former Expos’ players involved. He’d love to snag Tim Raines. Are you out there, Tim?
“Tim’s a hard guy to get a hold of,’’ Giannis said.
And Giannis is looking for more sponsors to go along with Burger King, Royal Bank, Au Vieux Duluth Restaurant, Greasy Spoon Restaurant, Classic Auctions, Encore, TC Media and Prohibition Smoking Accessories. Check out exposfest.com for more details.
It will be a day to remember. Remember three words in creating awareness of DIPG. Fight. Support. Advocate.