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Hard to believe it has been 10 years since the Montreal Expos were getting set to begin their final spring training at Space Coast Stadium at Viera, Florida before relocating in Washington as the Nationals in 2005. There are actually eight - possibly nine - players still active who played on that final Montreal team in 2004. Five of those had ties to the Blue Jays, including lefty reliever Scott Downs, righty reliever Jon Rauch, Tomo Ohka whos trying a comeback this year with the Blue Jays as a knuckleballer, shortstop Alex Gonzalez (the first one) who was a contemporary of Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green and current Jays utility infielder Maicer Izturis. The others include reliever Luis Ayala, infielder Jamey Carroll and outfielder Endy Chavez, and Canadian-born pitcher Shawn Hill who pitched last season and may still be active. The Expos knew they were in trouble going into that final season. Major League Baseball was running the team, and rumours were running rampant they were either going to be relocated or contracted, folded if you will. The Expos played 22 of their games in Puerto Rico at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, either to try and make more money for MLB, or expose the game on a more international level, or kill off the Expos even faster. Take your pick. In any event their attendance in 2004 was the worst in the Majors at 748,550. The Expos dropped their final five home games at Stad Olympique and went 2-7 on their final homestand ever. The Expos final home game ever was on September 29 against the Florida Marlins. Before the game they were presented with a banner by MLB, that proclaimed them as the best team in baseball in 1994. That of course was the year of the players strike that stretched into early 2005. The Expos had the best record in the Majors when play was halted in August of 1994 and most pundits felt they would have won the World Series that year. That banner was raised in centre field during that final game in Montreal. But mere hours later, word leaked out that the Expos would be relocating to Washington for the next season as the Nationals. To complete that washout of a day, Florida won the final game played in Montreal, 9-1. Korean-born pitcher Sun-Woo Kim, who finished with an appropriate career record of 13-13 took the loss giving up five runs on five hits in just two innings. Veteran catcher Todd Zeile hit the final home run at Olympic Stadium, a three-run shot off Claudio Vargas in the 6th inning. But it wasnt quite over from the Expos as they had to go to Shea Stadium in New York to play out the season in the very park where they played their first-ever game in 1969. After dropping the first game, Montreal won its final game under the Expos banner on Saturday, October 2. It had plenty of drama too. Brad Wilkerson, who spent some time with the Blue Jays in 2008, slammed a three-run tie-breaking homer in the top of the 9th off Braden Looper to propel Montreal to a 6-3 victory. On the Sunday, they didnt fare as well. The Mets crushed them 8-1. Jamey Carroll scored the final run in Expos history and Endy Chavez made the final out. Five players who had ties to the Blue Jays were involved in that game: Jose Reyes, Wilkerson, Tony Bautista, Jon Rauch and Maicer Izturis. Not only that, Randy St. Claire, Montreals pitching coach on that day, is now the Blue Jays Triple-A pitching coach at Buffalo. Also of note, the winning pitcher that day for the Mets was Tom Glavine, winding down his Hall of Fame career, who climbed to 11-14 with the victory. Montreal finished that final season at 67-95. A couple of more notes on that final Expos season. They were involved in one of the biggest trades of the year at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. It was a nine-player, four-team swap that involved Montreal, Boston, the Cubs and Minnesota. The Expos sent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to Boston. The Red Sox sent one of their all-time greats, Nomar Garciaparra, to the Cubs as part of the package and Alex Gonzalez was one of the three players that went from the Cubs to Montreal. Strangely enough, Gonzalez, the ex-Jay, was the final Expos player ever dealt. He was sent to San Diego as part of a conditional deal on September 16. The Expos left us with some great memories, and there are many who believe a team will return to Montreal, including a group fronted by former Expos left fielder Warren Cromartie. For that to happen though, a new downtown stadium has to be built, and that is nowhere near happening yet. For now Montreal fans will have to be content with two pre-season games at the Olympic Stadium in late March between the Blue Jays and the New York Mets. Midsummer Plans This years All-Star game is slated for Target Field in Minnesota. In 2015, the Midsummer Classic will be in Cincinnati. Commissioner Bud Selig says Washington is a front-runner for 2017. However 2016 is open and if the rotation is followed would go to an American League team. That would be the perfect fit for the Blue Jays, on the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Classic they hosted in 1991. Heres hoping. Bryan Trottier Jersey .com) - Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos had an arthroscopic procedure performed on his right elbow last week, the teams official site reported Wednesday. Jaromir Jagr Jersey .com) - The fading Ottawa Senators have a chance to make up some ground in the playoff race on Tuesday night as they play host to the New York Rangers. http://www.penguinsauthenticofficial.co ... in-jersey/. Some will say that Martin is too sensitive while others will say that it is part of the way football is in the locker room. But to have to absorb what was said to him for any rational and intelligent person is too much. Sidney Crosby Penguins Jersey . Louis Cardinals won the World Series last season, but after losing first baseman Albert Pujols to free agency and manager Tony LaRussa to retirement, they opened the 2012 season in 12th spot in the TSN. Paul Martin Penguins Jersey . -- Creighton apparently has Villanovas number.DETROIT -- On a day of dandy Detroit debuts, Alex Gonzalez helped Brad Ausmus start his tenure as Tigers manager with a win. Gonzalez lined an RBI single off Greg Holland in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday in Ausmus first game since replacing Jim Leyland. Victor Martinez homered for Detroit, and Justin Verlander was sharp aside from a three-run fourth inning that wasnt all his fault. "Theres two things that could have spoiled opening day for me," Ausmus said. "One, if we lost. And two, if the sun wasnt out. Because for me opening day, the sun is out, fans are having fun, theyre eating their popcorn, drinking their beer. The energy is higher." Kansas City lost its sixth straight opener. Ausmus was upstaged a bit by another newcomer on a bright, pleasant day in downtown Detroit. Gonzalez was acquired by the Tigers in late March following an injury to shortstop Jose Iglesias. Detroit is just hoping he can fill in competently, and Gonzalez did not impress at first. His error in the fourth helped the Royals score an extra run, but he made up for that with a tying triple in the seventh. Gonzalez then singled with men on first and third in the ninth. "Ive played on a lot of opening days -- I dont even remember all of them -- but this one was special," Gonzalez said. "I was looking for a pitch that I could elevate, and I got one. I rounded first and all I saw was the whole team coming at me." Joe Nathan -- another new face on Detroits roster -- pitched a scoreless ninth. Nathan (1-0) signed with the Tigers to become their closer, but hell have to wait a bit longer for a save opportunity. Holland didnt have a save chance either after converting 47 of 50 last year. Instead, the right-hander came into a difficult situation in the ninth and couldnt get out of it. Wade Davis (0-1) yielded a one-out walk to Alex Avila and a single to Nick Castellanos before Holland allowed the single to Gonzalez. "I get paid to get people out, and I didnt do it today," Holland said. "Were not here to fight and compete. Were here to win." Detroits Tyler Collins made his major league debut as a pinch runner for Avila -- and ended up scoring the winning run. Salvador Perez had four hits for Kansas City.dddddddddddd Although there were still a few patches of snow in the Detroit area Monday morning, the game was played under a sunny sky with temperatures in the 50s. With its recently re-sodded field, Comerica Park looked sharp. But the Tigers, coming off three straight AL Central titles, were sloppy at first. Right fielder Torii Hunter dropped a routine flyball in the second, and although Verlander pitched out of that jam, he couldnt escape the fourth. Salvador Perez tied it at 1 with a one-out RBI double off Verlander, and Lorenzo Cain slapped an RBI single through the hole into left field to put Kansas City ahead. After a two-out walk, Gonzalez bobbled Norichika Aokis slow grounder for an error that loaded the bases. Verlander then walked Omar Infante, forcing in Kansas Citys third run of the inning. Verlander had surgery in January after injuring his groin, but he pitched 20 scoreless innings during spring training. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- and six hits in six innings Monday, walking three and striking out two. That was enough for a no-decision. Verlander was making his seventh straight start on opening day, and hes only 1-1 in those games. "I never seem to find a win on opening day, but the bullpen shut them down and we got one anyway. Thats all that matters," Verlander said. "Every opening day is special, but this one meant a little more, because I had to really work and grind to get here for this one after the surgery." With Kansas City ahead 3-1 in the seventh, Austin Jackson hit a one-out triple and Avila drew a walk. Aaron Crow replaced starter James Shields and struck out Castellanos, but the third strike was a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score. Gonzalez followed with a triple to the gap in left-centre. Shields gave up three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. NOTES: Infante received a hand from the Detroit crowd when he was introduced with the Kansas City players before the game. He left the Tigers and signed with the Royals in the off-season. ... The crowd of 45,068 was the second-largest in Comerica history. ... It was the fourth four-hit game of Perezs career. ... The Royals were 67-6 last year when leading by 2 or more runs at any point from the seventh inning on, according to STATS. ' ' '
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