since 2002

F.I.C. Ventures to Montreal

By James Meyerriecks, Cardinals Lead Correspondent

Originally published: Aug 13, 02 at 12:12 PM

On July 23, 1968, Neil Armstrong made his first step on the moon. 'That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,' he said, as he pioneered humanity's era of space exploration.

Sure.... It's not exactly rocket science, but Fantasy Information Central's very own Cardinals Correspondent recently went up to Montreal, Quebec for the last two games of the Diamondbacks-Expos series with the first press passes that the site has acquired. The hard work that the staff here at FIC has put in is starting to pay off. This was indeed one small step for a man, but one giant leap for the website.

There were many hardships along the way. It was hard to endure a thirty-four hour bus trip each way from St. Louis to Montreal; it wasn't too easy getting around a city where the native language is French when all the French that you speak is 'no parlez vous francais'; it certainly wasn't too kind to the wallet; still, when all's said and done, it was worth it. The following are some highlights of the journal that has been kept of the trip:

July 29

10:00 AM CDT - Time to get started. The Greyhound Bus I'm riding is heading from St. Louis to Columbus. I also have to change buses in Cleveland, Buffalo, and Albany, as well as stop in about ten other smaller towns along the way.

July 30

8:40 PM EDT - I arrive in Montreal, only to find that it's too late to exchange my money. I find an ATM in the Bus Station and hail a cab. After a few minutes trying to figure out the language barrier, we're off to my hotel.

9:10 PM EDT - The concierge of the hotel actually speaks English fairly well, and I get my room. Time to relax and watch TSN to find out everything that I've missed in the last two days while I was on the road.

10:20 PM EDT - I almost piss myself when I see that they're talking about Scott Rolen in his first game as a Cardinal. They don't announce the deal that had happened the day before, and I pray that the Cards didn't give up both Bud Smith and Jimmy Journell. After talking to Carlos and hearing that Journell wasn't traded for Rolen, as well as finding out all of the last minute information that I need when I go to the stadium, I breathe a sigh of relief.

July 31

12:00 PM EDT - Time to set off for the stadium. A Metro (subway system in Montreal) Station shouldn't be that far off, but I'm still sitting here with all of this American money. After walking for about a mile in the hot July sun, I find a bank and ask the teller if he can help me find Olympic Stadium. His English doesn't seem to be that bad, but his knowledge of the area does, so I set off towards what I perceive to be the nearest Metro Station.

1:25 PM EDT - OK. That wasn't a Metro Station, but le Stad Olympique is in view. Nothing but a short walk that looks to be about 2-3 miles. Unfortunately, when I get closer to it, I see the huge lake that blocks my path. I consider swimming, but think the better of it and find a Metro Station.

2:30 PM EDT - Finally... The Metro Station. This was the best way to save my quickly depleting wallet. Unfortunately, everything's in French, and nobody who speaks English seems to know where the stadium is. In the end? I have to call a cab (ugh).

3:45 PM EDT - The moment is finally upon us. I head to the Expos Office, where Carlos (our site's General Manager) has told me that they'll give me the press passes and explain a few things in person. They've lost my pass, but make another one. Nobody really explains anything to me about where I can go and what I have access to, but I kind of fly by ear and head down to the field for batting practice.

4:00 PM EDT - As it may seem appropriate, I was dressed to look professional. I turn up in a shirt and tie, and expect many of the reporters on the field to be dressed much the same. I walk onto the field and see the Expos taking Batting Practice. Hey... There's Vladdy crushing one to left!!! When I walk around to the first base side, I see all of the other reporters, primarily dressed in polo shirts and sweaters. Oh well.

4:40 PM EDT - Expos GM Omar Minaya steps out of the clubhouse for questions and is smothered by reporters. The Expos had dealt Cliff Floyd on Tuesday, and questions were arising all over the place about Bud Selig forcing Minaya to reduce the Expos payroll. Minaya states that he just likes the players that he got for Floyd, and that there was no pressure. Five reporters have a camera on him; another six or seven have tape recorders right under his mouth; I sit back with a pen and paper and do what I can.

5:30 PM EDT - It seems fairly impossible for me to get an interview with anyone, so I think it's time to head up to the press box. When I arrive, I sign the guest book and look around a bit. Right in front of me are three radio booths, one for the TEAM (Expos English broadcast), one for CKAC (Expos French broadcast), and another for KTAR (Diamondbacks broadcast).

To my left, there is a dining hall. To my right, there are the seats of the press box.... There are three rows of seats in the press box. All have phone jacks in front of them, and most of them were used. There had to be at least thirty people with laptops at the game. Behind the seating area, there is a table on which copies of press releases from each team are left, as well as a scorecard for the game.

7:10 PM EDT - The game is underway, as Tony Womack grounds out to third base against Masato Yoshii. Some people are off to the side eating, but I vow not to budge from my seat for a while. After the first inning, my will is broken and I grab a soda.

8:00 PM EDT - The Expos trail 2-0 as Luis Gonzalez has hit a solo shot and Quinton McCracken had an RBI groundout. Yoshii isn't looking too hot. Then again, Johnson's control doesn't seem to be at it's usual level, as he's gone deep into a few counts and walked Cabrera in the second inning. Still, it's hard to argue with four strikeouts in two innings.

9:00 PM EDT - The D-Bax are up 3-0 now, and as I look through the crowd, which was just announced in the press box as 11,747, there seem to be as many Diamondbacks fans as Expos fans. Johnson is working on a masterpiece at this point, throwing a five-hitter through seven innings with eleven strikeouts. It's just plain scary to see his slider in person.

9:50 PM EDT - The Expos finally break through with a run in the ninth, cutting the deficit to 4-1 on a Jose Macias single. Johnson remains in the game even though he no longer has the shutout to pitch for.

9:55 PM EDT - Johnson threw an absolutely astounding 150 pitches, but looked just as strong at the end as he did in the beginning. After allowing the RBI single to Macias, he strikes out Matt Cepicky and Jose Vidro to close the door on a 4-1 victory for the Diamondbacks.

10:05 PM EDT - Time to head to the locker room. Expos Manager Frank Robinson seems to have nothing but praise for Johnson, and is, like Minaya earlier, swarmed by TV Cameras. Most of the attention in the locker room is focused towards Andres Galaragga, who extended his hitting streak to seven games, and Brian Schneider, who went two for three with a walk and a triple. Again, I end up in the back of the pack with a pad and pen.

10:20 PM EDT - Seeing as how I'm not getting too much information, I decide to call it a night. As I leave Olympic Stadium, I do manage to get lucky enough to find an easier way to get there from my hotel, as I figure out the Metro system a bit more. I kick back and watch TSN until about 1 AM.

August 1

2:30 PM EDT - OK. Much easier and less comical trip to the stadium today. I arrive there around 4:30 and catch about twenty minutes of Batting Practice before heading up to the press box. The field seems relatively quiet today.

6:30 PM EDT - I decide to try out the dining area. Chicken Bruschetta is the item on the menu today, and it's fantastic. For those of you who haven't tried it, I highly recommend it. For the most part, it's the same crew of reporters here today. There are a lot of Japanese reporters at both games, as the Expos started Masato Yoshii yesterday and are starting Tomokazu Ohka today. I look over and see someone playing Starcraft on their laptop and kind of chuckle. So this is why they have them, huh?

7:15 PM EDT - The game's underway. Ohka's looking pretty solid, despite the fact that he's been shaky lately. I can't wait for the Expos to bat, as the fact that they're facing Curt Schilling alone makes this trip more than worthwhile.

7:45 PM EDT - I'm absolutely shocked, as Troy O'Leary and Andres Galaragga have managed to scrounge together two hits in an inning between them and put O'Leary across the plate for a one run lead. I fully expect Schilling to go on a tear and strike out the next ten batters he faces.

9:15 PM EDT - Tomo Ohka is living the impossible dream. He's out pitched Curt Schilling through six innings, and faces the bottom of the order in the seventh. Uh oh. That one's going a long way. David Delucci ties it with a solo shot to lead off the seventh.

9:40 PM EDT - Ohka gave it his all, but the team's going to have to come through for him in the 8th if they're to give him a win. With two outs and Orlando Cabrera on first base, Robinson elects to pinch hit for Ohka with Jose Macias, who singles. Unfortunately, Brad Wilkerson lines out to left to end the threat. Still, Ohka pitched his heart out, setting a new mark for his personal longest outing in the big leagues, as he threw 8 innings and allowed just a run on six hits and three walks.

9:50 PM EDT - Quinton McCracken has just singled with one out in the top of the ninth, leaving Curt Schilling on deck. As he guns for his nineteenth win, I'm curious to see whether or not he bats for himself. It all becomes a moot point as Chad Moeller grounds into a double play to Orlando Cabrera.

9:53 PM EDT - Schilling is an absolute workhorse. He's stayed in there for the ninth, and starts the inning against the heart of the order: Vidro, Vladdy, and O'Leary. Vidro starts it off by grounding out to third base.

9:55 PM EDT - The hardest part about the press box? No cheering. A life long Expos fan who thinks that the pitcher they faced tonight, Curt Schilling, may have the most indefatigable will ever seen on a pitcher's mound has just watched Vladimir Guerrero crush the first pitch that Schilling threw him in the ninth over the left field wall. I want to jump up and yell. I want to give him a standing ovation as the rest of the crowd asks for a curtain call, but I can't. WHAT A GAME!

10:20 PM EDT - I didn't feel like I could even move for about twenty minutes after the game. As I headed out to the elevator that took me to the clubhouse, I saw about ten reporters that were still waiting to get down to the locker room. By the time I got down there, pretty much everyone was gone. I returned to my hotel using the Metro and was still shaking from watching Vladdy hit the walk-off shot against Schilling by the time I got back to turn on TSN.

August 2

4:10 PM EDT- Great! My bus home is running late, and I can't wait to get home. My teams haven't been checked for a week, and the Cardinals Report needs to be updated, especially since they pulled a deal off for Rolen. Thirty-Eight hours and two extra layovers later, I would finally set foot back in my apartment in St. Louis and start to put this all together.

So that's it! What a blast! Vladdy, Schilling, Unit, and... errrr.... the bus trip. As the site grows, there may be more opportunities like this, hopefully a bit closer to home. Hopefully, this was indeed that 'One small step for a man, and one giant leap for the website.'

By Mike Timberlake on August 14, 2002 01:54 PM

Sounds like a hell of a time! Pretty good for our first stab at the big leagues. You did us proud, Jim.

By adam on August 16, 2002 02:40 AM

hey just came by and wanted to give two thumbs up to the cards press writer... Great story, and how cool getting press privilages.

great work

By Steve on August 25, 2002 11:48 AM

I was at that same game August 1st that you speak of. When Vladdy came to the plate in the ninth, I turned to my son and said, "watch this!". Two days prior he had hit a walk-off homer against the same D-backs. In all but 1 of his at bats in this game, he had swung at the first what does Schilling do?...throws a fastball right down St.Catherine Street (probably the street your hotel was on?) which Vladdy scorches over the wall.

By Jim on August 28, 2002 02:43 AM

Actually, I was staying in Longueill... It was a bit of a trek, but the Days Inn there was more affordable than any other place I could find.

I missed the first game (Nate, our Diamondbacks correspondent was there in the stands, I think), but I remember seeing on TSN that the Expos blew a late lead before Vladdy tagged BK for the game-winner in the 10th, only to pull out a victory in similar fashion two days later. The guy's just awesome!