Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is open to Montreal hosting three or four regular-season games in 2016, the city's mayor said Thursday after a 45-minute meeting he described as "extremely positive."
The goal of the encounter was to show Manfred that Montreal is "serious about baseball," said Denis Coderre, who explained the city's strategy toward acquiring a team either through expansion or the relocation of an existing franchise.
Coderre wouldn't give details about that strategy but said demonstrating to the league that Montreal can fill the Olympic Stadium for games in June or July is the "next step" in bringing a team back to the city.
He said Manfred was impressed by the fact the four preseason MLB games the city has hosted in the past two years — two in 2014 and two this year — were near sellouts and he "didn't close the door at all" to his request for several regular-season games next year.
"He's open to it," Coderre said. "I showed (Manfred) that we have a clear strategy and that the fans are there. We can fill the (Olympic Stadium); now the next step is to get regular-season games here. If we can fill the stadium in April, imagine in June or July."
He added that six or seven teams have expressed interest in playing games in the city next year.
Coderre called Manfred a "family man and a man of great vision" who is not only concerned about MLB but also in developing a stronger grassroots interest in the game across North America.
Montreal's recent $11-million investment in baseball diamonds is proof the city is also concerned about increasing interest in the game among young people, Coderre said.
"The future Russell Martins of this world need to have the capacity to play the game and the opportunity to see if he loves the game," he added, referring to the Blue Jays' Toronto-born catcher.
Coderre acknowledged that many steps lie ahead before Montreal gets a team back after losing the Expos in 2004.
"(Myself and Manfred) will work closely together so I think (our meeting) was mission accomplished," he said.
Manfred said recently the interest shown by Montreal meant the city had successfully passed the first test toward a return of baseball but that it would have to meet several other criteria, including a proper baseball stadium.
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