Mayor Coderre calls talk of Expos return premature

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

MONTREAL --  This city's mayor Denis Coderre is a lot like Toronto mayor John Tory: he's everywhere.

Every time you turn around, Coderre can be seen, just like Tory, in a general-news scenario or at a sports function.

So there was Coderre posing for photos with Expos icon Andre Dawson at the second annual Exposfest fund-raiser at Place Centre-Ville. When Coderre was free, we swooped in to talk with him about the latest on major-league baseball possibly returning to Montreal.

We've tried to corner Coderre in the past for telephone interviews but emails and phone calls to his media-relations people and his personal secretary go unanswered. One time, I even sent him a Twitter message.

"It's premature,'' Coderre said, when he was asked how city council might look at funding for a new stadium to play host to a new team, whether it's a relocated franchise like the Tampa Bay Rays or an expansion club.

Coderre took exception to a recent La Presse Canadienne report that suggested investors already have agreements from the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec to build a new stadium.

"I talked to that reporter about it,'' Coderre said. "We don't have any agreements from any levels of government. We can't start building a stadium until we get a team.

"A relocated team or expansion are ways of getting a team but it's an issue where we have to be respectful of Major League Baseball. We're ready to receive the phone call from them.''

Coderre admitted he has had several conversations with commissioner Rob Manfred so if that is happening, you know that things are moving along fairly smoothly.

"That's between us and him,'' Coderre said, when he was asked about the content of those discussions with Manfred.

It was very interesting to read another report that quoted investor group head Stephen Bronfman as not being shy of the estimated $1-billion needed to get an expansion team.

"It's a lot of money but we're going to do it,'' said the son of former Expos majority owner Charles Bronfman. "We'll organize it. It's going to happen. Whether it's in two years or seven years, no problem.''

The fund-raiser was another resounding success. The event, largely organized by Perry Giannis, raises funds for research for the ugly brain-cancer disorder Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.

It was great to see so many former Expos show up and sign autographs along with Quebec native and former major-leaguer Eric Gagné.

"This event was really amazing, incredible,'' former Expo David Palmer said of Exposfest.

In terms of grandeur and impressions for Palmer, it reminded him of a gathering several years of former Expos and fans when people showed up to watch a film, the French version of Deal or No Deal. 

Talking of Dawson, we all know he batted and threw right-handed during his Hall of Fame career but here's a little-known nugget: he uses his left hand to sign autographs and do other duties, such as cutting up food. When I asked Dawson if he had ever considered trying to be a switch-hitter when he was young, he shook his head.

Expos' fanatic Annakin Slayd and his band and a wrestling match formed part of the entertainment. Even Youppi in his Montreal Canadiens' logoed uniform, showed up. We also ran into Jim Fanning's son Frank, who is reporting soon to his job as box-office manager of the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Oakland Athletics' Single-A affiliate based in Burlington.

The whole weekend was a hoot. Great entertainment was provided by the Blue Jays and Pirates March 30 and April 1. Some 95,000 fans showed up. Impressive figures in sloppy, rainy weather.

That home run by Jays' prospect Rowdy Tellez was a sight to behold. He'll be back up sometime soon we hope. Now, if only we could get Olympic Stadium powers-to-be to stop playing ear-pounding, awful acoustics/music before/during a game. It's enough to drive you bonkers.

While we were in Montreal, we noticed in the Gazette that Louis Desmarais of the famous Desmarais family had died. Louis was a long-time entrepreneur, who became a multi-millionaire and probably half a billionaire in a lifetime spent partially in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. and then in Montreal.

What caught my eye was that the trained chartered accountant and one-time Member of Parliament was also a member of the board of directors of the 'Montreal Expos Baseball Club' for a number of years. He died at the ripe age of 94 at his home in St.-Lambert, Que.