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Puerto Ricans Hoping Expos Return For Good Vidro Happy To Be Home, No Matter Where It Is
Puerto Ricans Hoping Expos Return For Good
The Canadian Press
July 2, 2004
Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos take note -- Puerto Rico is waiting.
In pubs lining the charming cobblestone alleys of Old San Juan, at bars in the kitschy tourist bastion of Isla Verde and at all spots in between, the return of big-league baseball is a hot topic on this pulsating Caribbean island.
The Expos, back in San Juan for 10 more revenue-generating games, open a three-game set with the Blue Jays today at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
Ironically, what is likely to be the final series between the two Canadian clubs will take place 3,000 kilometres southeast of the country starting the day following Canada Day.
Some say it's a fitting end to an interleague rivalry that failed to generate the type of excitement created by Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox or Giants-Athletics meetings.
More often than not, the Battle of Canada has felt more like a polite argument.
Of course that's of no concern to Puerto Ricans, who are caught up in news of a second bid that would bring the Expos to the island permanently and in the arrival of beloved native sons Carlos Delgado, Jose Vidro and Alex Rios.
Delgado, who has been out of the Jays lineup since May 30 with a rib injury, will not be able to play, but will travel to Puerto Rico to take batting practice today and tomorrow.
The new bid, led by an unnamed group of island investors, has the support of local government and influential Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, their spokesman told the San Juan Star.
This group is unrelated to Antonio Munoz, the promoter behind the deals which brought the Expos to Puerto Rico for 22 "home" games this year and last, and who is also trying to acquire the club from Major League Baseball.
Groups from Washington and Northern Virginia are believed to be the front-runners to land the Expos, but Angelos opposes both because he fears they would siphon fans away from his Orioles.
Las Vegas, Monterrey, Mexico and Portland, Ore., are also in the running.
Baseball officials are expected to make a decision in August.
Vidro Happy To Be Home, No Matter Where It Is
The Globe and Mail
July 6, 2004
Jose Vidro is from Puerto Rico, so playing for a team with two homes is not the hardship it is for some of his teammates.
The Montreal Expos will have played 21 of their home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium here by the beginning of next week's break for the All-Star Game.
"To get to play before your family, before your friends, it's very exciting and a very emotional thing," the Expos second baseman said during the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays last weekend. "The only bad thing is we're playing on the road so long.
"Probably, I'm the happiest guy because I'm from here, but for the rest of the guys, it's a 28-day road trip, so it's not easy for us. I'm kind of not going to express my emotions out there too much because I have my teammates here who are feeling kind of sad . . . because we have two home fields."
The Expos were to play 22 games in Puerto Rico this season, but one of the games in May with the San Francisco Giants was postponed and will be made up at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. They opened a series against Atlanta last night, losing 11-4 to the Braves.
The Expos won two of three games from the Blue Jays, and the two Canadian major-league baseball teams finished their home-and-home interleague series at 3-3 for the second season in a row. Thus, the Pearson Cup will again be shared.
Although the Expos have two homes this year, it is not certain where their home will be next season. They have played games in Puerto Rico for the past two seasons because attendance in Montreal had slipped amid discussions of relocating the Expos. Major League Baseball, which owns the Expos, is supposed to make an announcement about the club's future home soon.
Yet in May, Vidro, who could have become a free agent at the end of this season, signed a four-year contract extension worth $30-million (U.S.) with Montreal. In a way, he took one uncertainty over another uncertainty; choosing a team that doesn't know where it might play next over going to another team that he does not know.
"I'm happy here," Vidro said. "I know that it has not been easy for us. I know all those things and that's a challenge for me and I enjoy it.
"This is where I grew up as a human being. I learned a lot of things here. That's very important for me, especially the way they have treated me all the way throughout my career. This is the place where I feel happy.
"When I speak in this group, when I speak in my clubhouse, when I speak to the manager, they respect me, they listen to me. Those types of things are tough to replace. That's why I decided to stay here."
So Vidro stayed while other talented players left. Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, for example, signed as a free agent with the Anaheim Angels in the off-season. Pitcher Javier Vazquez was traded to the New York Yankees.
"It was not in my head, the situation about the team, because I know wherever we're going to be, I'm going to be playing," Vidro said. "This situation has been going on for a while now, but it's going to change and the organization told me when I signed that a lot of improvements are going to be made. We're going in a positive way and maybe next year we'll have new owners and a new home."
Vidro, 29, has been on the National League team at the All-Star Game three times, but wasn't named to it this year. He entered this season with a .306 career batting average in his first seven major-league seasons. He is batting .290, with 10 home runs and 39 runs batted in, this season,
He had a 19-game hitting string (32-for-73, .438) stopped in the Blue Jays' 2-0 victory last Saturday, but was 2-for-4, with an RBI, in Montreal's 6-4 victory on Sunday.