NEW YORK- Years ago I covered the Expos on a regular basis for a number of media outlets. During that time Richard Griffin handled media relations and did so with the highest degree of professionalism. He was so good in fact that the Toronto Star Newspaper hired him away as a baseball columnist back in 1995, a position in which he thrived. After 24 years on the job he took on a new challenge prior to the start of this season as director of Baseball Media for the Toronto Blue Jays. How lucky for me he was in New York when I attended the Yanks-Jays game.
Griffin, a former West Island resident, was actually born in Kingston, Jamaica as his dad worked there for Seagrams. He fell in love with baseball when he began listening to World Series games on the radio on the north shore of the island in the early ’60s. His parents moved to Montreal in 1963, where he graduated with honours from Loyola High School before attending Concordia University and playing Junior Varsity basketball.
As we sat before the game in the Blue Jays dugout at Yankee Stadium, an impeccably beautiful facility which opened in the Bronx 10 years ago to replace the aging original across the street, Griffin gave me his take on the possible shared custody arrangement in four years with the Tampa Bay Rays splitting their home schedule between Florida and Montreal. “I filled out half my application to come back,” he laughed.
On a more serious note, Griffin reasoned that this proposal is merely part of Major League Baseball’s use of Montreal’s known intent to bring back the game there to pressure the City of Tampa to build a new stadium. “I think there is a team in the works for Montreal,” Griffin said. “Either via relocation or expansion.”
Griffin and his wife Debbie reside in Oakville. They have four children and two grand kids. One son, 26 year old Pat, works in administration for the Jays scouting department.
Griffin secured his first job in Major League Baseball with the Expos while he was still a student at Concordia in 1973. He rose through the Expos’ ranks to become director of publicity in 1978.
DENIS BOUCHER: Lachine’s Denis Boucher has been part of the Yankees organization for the past nine years as a scout for Quebec and Eastern Canada. He of course made it to the big leagues in 1991 and spent four seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Blue Jays and the Expos, compiling a 6-11 record. I will never forget attending his first start as an Expo on Sept. 6, 1993. The game attracted over 40,000 fans and Boucher the southpaw had Montreal ahead 2-1 over Colorado when he left the game. The Expos lost the lead, but won the game. Boucher would end up going 3-1 in the month. Unfortunately he did not stay on the roster long the following season, but his rise to the majors as an undrafted free agent cemented a well-deserved stamp of respect from fans and media alike.
Boucher ended up working for the Expos as a batting practice pitcher and scout, retaining a similar role for the Washington Senators franchise moved there. He got into coaching with the Canadian National team, something he proudly continues today. Team Canada heads to the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru this week with the hope of qualifying for the Olympics in Japan. Boucher loves his job as pitching coach, having already been to the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 in this role. In Lachine he is busy supporting youth baseball.
As for the talk that the Tampa Bay Rays may end up playing half of their games in Montreal in a few years, Boucher said, “it is an exciting idea, but I want to see us get the Expos back – not the Rays.”