Earlier this week we learned MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had endorsed the Sister City plan to split Rays home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal, but that wasn’t the only strong endorsement out of the owner’s meetings.
Among the 29 other teams, the biggest prospective critic of the Rays plan could prospectively be the only club in Canada, but Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said he was ”Favorable to [the Rays] exploring it.”
Phrased another way, Shapiro said to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
“Certainly in favor of anything that impacts the baseball landscape in Canada positively. We are supportive of them exploring it. You can argue that both ways: It’s nice to be the only team but it also would be nice to have that increased interest there as well.’’
Shapiro was the only team representative at the owner’s meeting to speak on the record, but in that same story, Topkin quoted MLB’s Commissioner as also saying that the Rays had convinced all of MLB that the Sister City concept was the best way forward to keep baseball in Tampa Bay (emphasis my own):
“I am 100 percent convinced and, more importantly, the other owners have been convinced by Stu, that this is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay,’’ Manfred said.
MLB, the Rays, and the prospective cities involved are sure to pick their statements carefully moving forward, but this is a strong one, particularly when one market — which has a lock on all baseball fans in its country — will be losing ~30% of its population to a new franchise.
Regarding the Canadian market, prospective Montreal principal owner Stephen Bronfman said that his team will present conclusions on market studies to MLB later this year (translated from French):
“Now we are doing our job to put everything we talked about into numbers. [...] It will take a few months, but we will present our conclusions to Major Baseball later this year. “
The above publication also noted a report is due in the coming weeks on Bronfman’s proposed plans to revitalize Peel Basin in downtown Montreal, which presumably includes an open air stadium concept.