As my father’s health slowly worsens after he somehow survived septic shock and a subsequent heart attack, I look at him now not with sadness or pity. When I speak to him now, and take advantage of whatever little time we have left together, I speak to him with joy as we talk with excitement about the one thing that has always united us, even in the worst of times. Next week’s return of baseball to Montreal will mark one week that I shouldn’t even have had with him and its timing couldn’t be better.
My twin brother and I were first introduced to baseball at age 10 (33 years ago) when my father took us to an Expos game and bought each of us brand new gloves the next day. We were always the smallest in stature compared to other kids our age but for some reason, we could catch and throw better than most. We soon realized that for us, because of our Dad and his love of the Expos, there was nothing better than baseball. We tried out for the local team “Loyola Pee Wee” and made the “A” team, he was so proud of us. When we’d practice together we’d mimic our heroes, I was Gary Carter and he was Charlie Lea. Our coach soon made us a battery – he’d pitch and I’d catch- and I’ll never forget when he struck out 10 batters one game and I threw out three baserunners trying to steal second. We were 11 years old and because of our Dad and the Expos, we learned about fair play, leadership, and the power of team sports.
For the next 7 years, we continued to live, eat, and breathe baseball as we watched Russell Martin and his father practice at Loyola Park, not knowing that one day, he’d be a big star. Baseball was our salvation growing up, the one thing we could always count on. We’d play all day, everyday and when we did, it was as if time stopped and that nothing could hurt us.
Since the departure of the Expos in 2004, an entire generation of children have missed out on what I now treasure; memories of heroes, freshly cut grass, and the feeling that anything is possible.
On March 29 2014, I’ll be at the Olympic Stadium with 40,000 others, thinking about my brother and my Dad, and the great times we had because of the Expos. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll get to speak to my Dad after the game and talk about this and that, and for a brief moment, we’ll all be young again.