Youppi Visits Nats Park
"We lost," Pier-Olivier Michaud said about an hour after the Nats failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth against the Rockies. Yes, "we."
"I'm still saying 'We,' " Pier-Olivier agreed. "Being from Montreal, I can't cheer for a high-budget team. How can I say Go Yankees when the reason the Expos moved was because of those teams? A team built from nothing, for nothing, you have to cheer for that."
"I don't know, it's so part of my childhood memories," agreed his road-tripping buddy Patrick Michaud. "Since I'm young, I've seen every Expos opening game with my grandfather, every year....It's still our team, even if it's playing in Washington. It's not because of Washington that they're here."
Since the Expos arrived here in '05, there have been the random hipsters around town and bleacher with Expos hats and Montreal tees. These fellas, though, were the real thing. Three years ago, Pier-Olivier--a 26-year old teacher from Quebec--decided he would satisfy the baseball urge with annual summer road trips, where he'd be joined by fellow fantasy baseball owners.
In '07, they got major TV face time by bringing along a banner proclaiming "Selig - We're Not Dead Yet." This year's gimmick was much softer in character; a two-feet tall stuffed Youppi, a gift to Patrick from his grandfather when he was 7. Youppi is now 20 years old, but just as cheerful as ever, even if Washingtonians didn't recognize him.
"The lady who was seating us asked who this animal was," Pier-Olivier observed.
"She thought it was Cookie Monster of Sesame Street," Patrick added.
I was at this game as a civilian, with a few of my college friends. I thought there would be an outpouring of Strasburg love; instead, when we went over to the Bullpen, we met the Expos Fans Baseball Tour. This was the first time the Tour rolled through Washington, and the guys were suitably impressed, gaping waterfront wasteland and all. They loved the park. They loved the game-day experience. They loved being able to move down from the right-field bleachers to the second row on the first-base side, where they could serenade first-base coach and former Expos great Marquis Grissom; "even Marquis Grissom looked at us funny," Pier-Olivier said.
The first time they called out to him, he sort of looked at their Expos gear and grimaced. But the second time, a laughing Pat Listach got Grissom to smile and wave.
And so now, it's on to Philadelphia, for tonight's game against the Diamondbacks. Youppi, you see, has a date to keep.
"My favorite mascot ever is Phillie Phanatic," Patrick told me. "We don't understand exactly what it is; it's green, it's weird. So I really want a picture of me with Youppi and Phillie Phanatic."
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