Today in unexpected headlines: The Tampa Bay Rays have received MLB's blessing to explore becoming a dual-city team. ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the Rays could play early-season home games in Florida — as they do now — then ship north across the border to Montreal to finish out the year:
BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays have received MLB's permission to explore becoming two-city team: the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, sources tell ESPN. The plan: Play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and finish the season in Montreal. News at ESPN: https://t.co/X6uSt4KLfC
According to Passan, this marks the Rays' attempt to "save baseball" in the Tampa Bay area following "years of failed attempts to build a new stadium in the region."
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred described the potential move as a long-term project and noted the Rays would receive a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, as well as one in Montreal. By playing early-season games in Florida, the thinking goes, the Rays would not need a dome, thus reducing the costs of a new facility.
The kicker here, of course, is the potential return of professional baseball to Montreal. The city hasn't had a team since the Expos left to become the Nationals in Washington, D.C., before the 2005 season. And interestingly enough, Montreal has some experience in this area. In 2003, the Expos played 22 home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, seeing better attendance there than at their Canadian home base.
If Montreal seems to ring a bell with Pirates fans, it should. The Pirates played in the National League East division with the Expos for 25 seasons, 1969-93, and Willie Stargell cracked the longest home run in Montreal's Olympic Stadium's history on May 20, 1978, launching one — wait for it — an estimated 535 feet off poor Wayne Twitchell.
While this plan for the Rays is technically in motion with this latest news, it's far from a done deal. Expect more answers — and even more questions — in the upcoming months. But for now, you might wanna renew that passport if you're a Rays fan.