Edgar Bateman was in unfamiliar territory.
The 55-year-old Montreal native found himself in a room painted entirely in eggshell white. A few feet in front of him was a desk. A younger man sat there typing away on a computer, while wearing a suit that matched the colours of the wall. Edgar looked down at his running shoes, track pants and faded Montreal Expos t-shirt and felt he was under-dressed.
The young man looked up and smiled.
“You must be Edgar. We’ve been expecting you. My name is Raymond. How are you feeling?”
At first, Edgar had no idea what Raymond was referring to. But then it all came back to him.
Edgar was in poor health. His doctor had spent countless hours lecturing him about his lifestyle choices. An overreaction in Edgar’s opinion. Sure, he didn’t exercise and enjoyed eating out more than putting something together at his bachelor apartment; but he kept everything in moderation – only two beers a day, corn beef with fries twice a week, chinese food on Sundays, a donut a day and a ten ounce steak only on special occasions. He wasn’t overweight and didn’t smoke. Plus, the constant stress he encountered at his job sped up his digestive system – or so he thought.
At his last appointment, Edgar’s doctor ordered him to start dieting and exercising. To help motivate her patient, the doctor called every delicatessen in the city and requested they refused service to him. Within weeks, Edgar was banned from Schwartz’s, Dunn’s and Snowdon Deli. He found similar opposition at all McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and St-Hubert locations; he couldn’t even get an orange julep at Orange Julep. One thing was certain: He had one hell of a doctor.
A nutritionist assisted Edgar with his diet, though he cheated on the number of cheat days allotted. Exercise was just as strenuous. It had been over 30 years since Edgar actually worked out. He didn’t like gyms or pools, so he decided to take up running. That’s what ultimately led to his conversation with Raymond.
It was a warm Sunday morning in June and Edgar was in a “go big or go home” state-of-mind. He stood at the base of Mont Royal and prepared to run all the way to to the top. Running on an incline would double the amount of calories burned – or so he thought.
Edgar took off like a rocket and soon felt pain in his legs. However, he wasn’t going to let it stop him. He began to breath heavily as the pain spread to his chest. Edgar had always been stubborn and nothing – not even pain or the fact he was terribly out of shape – was going to stop him from getting to the summit of Mont Royal.
Drenched in sweat and riddled with pain, Edgar made it to the top. He was hurting, but he was proud. Edgar Bateman conquered Mont Royal! He looked at the Cross and smiled. He looked at the city skyline and smiled. Then he dropped like a rock. That was his last memory.
“I’m feeling fine,” Edgar told Raymond nonchalantly. He then realized the seriousness of the matter and was stricken with fear.
“I need you to be honest with me. This is it, right? I’ve died.”
“Not exactly,” replied Raymond.
“I’m not dead?” said Edgar surprisingly. “I’m still alive?”
“Not exactly,” replied Raymond.
Edgar was understandably confused. “I’m not dead, but I’m also not alive? None of this makes any sense. Isn’t this Heaven? Aren’t you some kind of angel?”
“No, I just work customer service.”
Edgar was instantly frustrated. He put his put hands on the desk, bent forward and glared at Raymond.
“This isn’t funny, Raymond,” Edgar said in a slow, but serious tone. “My life is difficult enough as it is. I can’t eat my favourite foods. I now have to exercise, which I absolutely hate. My job is tedious, I live alone and I have to cheer for the Blue Jays because my favourite baseball team moved to Washington. I need you, Raymond, to tell me where I am and what exactly is happening!”
This wasn’t the first person Raymond encountered who wasn’t in a cheerful mood. So like previous times, he took a breath, stood up and faced Edgar.
“Here’s the situation,” Raymond began. “You are outside of Heaven. You are neither dead or alive. You are actually in a holding pattern.
“This is the Royal Heavenly Department of Undecided Souls and Mortals; the RHDUSM for short. Basically, You-know-who hasn’t decided if it is your time to enter Heaven or if you still have some years left on Earth.”
Edgar stood in disbelief. After a long pause, he replied in a softer tone.
“I don’t understand,” said Edgar. “How can…‘You-know-who’ be…undecided? Isn’t there supposed to be a plan for all of us? A mighty plan that we know nothing about, but only You-know-who does?”
Raymond started laughing. “Hogwash!” he exclaimed. “I’ll be honest with you, Edgar. There is no plan. You-know-who only creates creatures, but You-know-who doesn’t organize their lives. You-know-who isn’t some overbearing parent that schedules every single minute of your life with play dates and swimming lessons. You-know-who just creates and lets ‘life’ happen.
“Trust me,” Raymond continued. “If there was an actual plan, then there would be no war, no crime, no starvation, no poor and the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series every year.”
Edgar’s head was spinning. He quickly located a chair and sat in it, head firmly planted in his hands. “That’s quite a breaking ball you just threw at me, Raymond.”
Raymond sat next to Edgar. “I know. It’s a lot to take in and I’m sorry for that.”
After another long pause, Edgar took a deep breath and sat up.
“Okay,” he said. “How do things get…decided?”
“It’s a simple process,” explained Raymond. “If you’re content with your life and you’ve accomplished all that you set out to accomplish, then say the word. I’ll send you to the Pearly Gates and text Saint Peter that you’re coming. However, if there’s still something you want to achieve or you have unfinished business, just tell me all about it and I will check with You-know-who.”
“That’s it?” questioned Edgar.
“That’s it,” replied Raymond. “So think long and hard, Edgar. Is there something you still need to do? Do you have unfinished business? Remember, this is an answer you’ll have to live with for all eternity. Take your time.”
Edgar spent the next hour thinking and reflecting, while Raymond typed away on his computer. The question was simple, but also complex. The answer came to Edgar after he looked down on his Expos t-shirt. Childhood memories instantly flooded his mind.
Edgar was a lifelong baseball fan and he loved the Montreal Expos. As a child, he played the sport with his friends and practically slept next to his glove and bat. Edgar and had father had season tickets to Jarry Park and Olympic Stadium. They saw hundreds of games during the team’s 35-year existence. Edgar witnessed almost every historical moment; no-hitters, milestone hits and the 1982 All-Star game. He was at every home playoff match in 1981 and he still grimaces when someone or something reminds him about “Blue Monday.” He worshipped the Grande Orange, the Kid, the Rock, the Hawk, the Spaceman, Booger, Pedro, Vladdy and anyone else who played for “Nos Amours.”
Just as fun as being at the ballpark was going to and from the ballpark. Edgar would sit on the Metro, while his father – also a lifelong fan – told him stories about the days before the Expos; a time when the city was represented by the minor league Royals and soon-to-be legends like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, who called Montreal home.
Whether at the ballpark or on television, nothing solidified the bond between Edgar and his father better than the Expos. Some of the best conversations they ever had revolved around baseball and the Expos. Even when the team played poorly, ran into financial trouble and posted poor attendance numbers at Olympic Stadium, Edgar and his father were loyal fans. They even once flew to Puerto Rico to watch the team.
When the Expos announced they were leaving Montreal in 2004, Edgar’s father had a stroke and his health rapidly deteriorated. Edgar had hoped to attend to final regular season home game with his father. But his father’s poor health prevented it from happening. So Edgar went by himself and cried as the final out was recorded. The next day, Edgar’s father passed away.
“Raymond, I know what I want to do,” shouted Edgar. “I want to bring the Expos back!”
Raymond looked up from his computer. “Fascinating,” he said. “That’s quite a challenge. How do you plan on making that happen?”
“That new National League team in Vegas – the Gamblers; their stadium deal fell through,” explained Edgar. “They already have players, coaches and a front office. They’ve played all their games on the road this season. I just need to convince the owner to move the team to Montreal; or, I will find owners in Montreal to buy the team and move them. It’s possible! There are a few grassroots organizations that can help.”
“Fascinating,” repeated Raymond. “What about a stadium? You know ‘The Big O’ isn’t suitable. The league won’t allow a team to move unless a new stadium is built.”
Edgar knew Raymond was right. He remembered how plans for a downtown stadium in the early 2000s fell through. It was a devastating blow to the Expos chances of surviving in Montreal.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” said Edgar. “But it doesn’t hurt to try, right?”
Raymond nodded in agreement. “Alright, I’m going to send an email to You-know-who,” he said. “If You-know-who likes your idea, then you’re good to go. You-know-who responds quickly, so we’ll know soon.”
As he waited for a response, Edgar took a moment to process everything that happened to him. Just a few short hours ago, he was eating his breakfast and watching sports highlights. His Sunday plans were simple: Make a half-hearted attempt to get in shape, buy some bagels, watch an old Expos game online, get some take out and retire for the night. It was a perfect plan.
But here he was at a serious crossroads. Edgar was literally in a life or death situation; and in order to stay alive – if allowed – he was going to take on a difficult task.
Before he had a chance to fully change his mind, Raymond spoke up.
“Good news! Your plan has been approved. However, you are living on borrowed time. So use it wisely.”
“But what if I fail?” asked Raymond. “Do I have a deadline? Will something happen to me?”
Raymond just smiled. “That’s entirely up to you.”
There was a bright flash and suddenly, Edgar was at the base of Mont Royal. It was still a warm Sunday morning in June. Edgar looked up towards to the top of Mont Royal as two thoughts popped into his mind: 1) He needed to get to work; 2) He needed to get in shape.
Edgar spent the summer gathering support for baseball’s return to Montreal. Despite all of his fears and hesitations, this had become his passion.
He first reached out to all the grassroots organizations. They were made up of former players, journalists, artists and other citizens who missed going to Olympic Stadium, despite its glaring flaws. Edgar would host meetings at his apartment and local pubs. He discussed his mission and how much the Expos meant to him. Those involved with the cause seemed to gravitate towards Edgar. Maybe they were envious of the many games he’d been to. Maybe the part about his father brought them to tears. Maybe it was the Expos cardigan he bought at a flea market years ago at Marche Bonsecours and wore at every meeting. Edgar couldn’t figure it out. He was always friendly, but never considered himself a leader. Time for self-analysis meant time missed on his ultimate goal.
Within months, Edgar had built an extensive network of supporters and financiers. They held fundraisers and information sessions. The movement was gaining momentum, but there were two large hurdles.
First, Edgar needed to build a new baseball stadium. He convinced a number businesses and private citizens to invest, but it wasn’t enough. Edgar knew he needed to help from the municipal and provincial level. He also knew that having taxpayers finance a portion of a stadium wouldn’t thrill the public.
Edgar reached out to the Mayor and Premier, but neither were interested in meeting with him. He went through every channel possible and spoke to several executive assistants and advisors. Their message was always the same: “We appreciate your interest, but baseball is low on the priority list.”
Then there was the issue of trying to purchase the Las Vegas Gamblers. Edgar did manage to speak to the team’s owner, George Seigel Hughes, over the phone and the conversation was pleasant. But Hughes refused to sell his team to Edgar.
“Son, I have lived in Vegas all my life,” said Hughes, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Nevada. “It is a major league city that deserves and needs a Major League Baseball team. My first stadium deal didn’t work out, but I guarantee you I will build one. I know you miss your Expos, but nothing – not money, not gold, not the fountain of youth – will be enough to make me sale this team.”
Edgar felt discouraged, but had no intention of giving up.
He met with his doctor in December for a follow up. She was pleased with his improvements. Edgar had lost a little weight. He also started taking some aerobics classes at the local YMCA. He wasn’t 100 percent healthy, but it was a good start.
Edgar’s doctor could tell something was bothering him and she asked him about it. At first, Edgar just wanted to give her a short version of events, minus the “sort of” dying part. But something was telling him to open up and tell her everything. So Edgar told his doctor about finding himself outside of Heaven, talking to Raymond about You-know-who and the hurdles of bringing baseball back to Montreal. She listened to him intently and even smiled when Edgar finished. She excused herself and left the examining room for a few minutes.
She returned with two items. One was a piece of paper with a specific time and location: Thursday, 11am, Olympic Stadium. Edgar’s doctor told him she called the Mayor and Premier and arranged a meeting for the three of them at that specific time and location on the paper. She also mentioned having long heart-to-heart chats with the political figures.
The other item was an envelope with George Siegel Hughes’ name written on it. Inside was a handwritten note. Edgar’s doctor gave him specific instructions: Fly to Vegas. Give Hughes the envelope. Do not – under any circumstances – look at the note.
Edgar was confused, but thanked his doctor anyway. Her assistance would likely lead to a dead end, but he was willing to try anything.
His meeting with the Mayor and Premier went better than expected. They met Edgar exactly at 11am on Thursday at the Olympic Stadium. Both informed Edgar they would help build a new baseball stadium, with construction to start immediately. To help finance the structure, Olympic Stadium would be dismantled, with parts of it being sold for scrap metal. Other items would be auctioned off. The meeting only lasted 15 minutes and Edgar couldn’t believe his luck. All of sudden, he got a stadium.
A few days later, he arrived in Las Vegas. Hughes picked him up and took him on a tour. He showed Edgar all his commercial properties. They enjoyed a private dinner that looked over the famous strip. Finally, as midnight approached, the subject of the struggling Gamblers was brought up.
“Listen, son,” said Hughes. “It’s been great to meet you in-person and I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. But I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time. The Gamblers are staying in Vegas and nothing is going to change that.”
“I have had a wonderful time and I can’t thank you enough,” Edgar responded. “And I completely understand and respect your desire to keep the Gamblers in your city. I promise, Mr. Hughes, this will be the last time I will ask you to sell your team.
“However,” Edgar continued. “Before we say goodnight, I’d like you to read this.”
Edgar handed the envelope to Hughes. With a puzzled look on his face, Hughes opened the envelope and began to read the note inside.
Suddenly, Hughes’ skin turned pale. Every facial feature sank. He went from a vibrant, confident individual to someone fragile and weak. Edgar saw the change and was frightened for Hughes. Whatever was on that note had blindsided the man.
“Alright, son,” mumbled Hughes. “You win. The team is yours. Take good care of them.”
Without saying goodbye, Hughes walked out of the room. Edgar sat in his chair for several minutes and tried to figure out what had just happened. It wasn’t a glamorous acquisition, but he got a team and he was bringing them to Montreal. The Expos were back!
Edgar left the building and made his way to the airport. As he walked out, he could hear Hughes crying behind a door. The sound was muffled, yet it was clearly a hurt soul on the other side. Edgar felt sorry for Hughes and promised himself to extend the millionaire an open invitation to Montreal.
A massive reception greeted Edgar when he returned to Montreal. He was the new star of the city; the man who successfully restored Nos Amours. He gave interviews, spoke at conventions and was the recipient of countless free meals.
The process had become easier. Major League Baseball’s owners unanimously approved the move, the new stadium was nearing completion and the Expos’ ownership group and front office was established. Everything was all set for Spring Training and the upcoming season.
The night before Olympic Stadium was to be imploded, a private party was held at the facility for everyone who supported the Expos’ return. It took place inside one of the former luxury boxes.
Edgar was the guest-of-honour and he was having a wonderful time. He was also excited for his new job with the Expos’ marketing department. Edgar looked around as the stadium was being stripped down before its grand exit the next day. Workers were removing the last few seats.
Just then, he noticed the two seats he and his father sat in were still in place – Section 401, row G, seats 9-10. Edgar and his father held those seats for years. He hadn’t sat in them since that final match in 2004. At that moment, Edgar wanted to sit in them one last time.
So he moved towards the section, but when he noticed a couple of workers nearing the seats, he started to sprint.
The elevator cars were already removed, forcing Edgar to use a nearby staircase. He picked up the pace as he rounded a portion of the stadium. His Expos cardigan had turned into a makeshift cape.
Edgar finally made it to the seats just as workers were about to unscrew the bolts. But they stopped as soon as they saw him. The workers knew who Edgar was and they knew exactly what he wanted to do. They backed away slowly and gave Edgar some privacy.
Memories flooded Edgar’s mind as he sat in one of the seats. Tears began to stream down his face. He really missed his father and he really missed watching the Expos. He then stood and gave the stadium a panoramic look. He thought of all the games he watched and smiled. He thought about everything he accomplished and smiled. He thought of all the new memories that would occur in the future and smiled. Then he dropped like a rock.
At first, Edgar was disoriented and confused when he opened his eyes. He was staring at a clear blue sky and noticed he was sleeping on a park bench. It wasn’t until he sat up and looked directly at the Pearly Gates that he figured out where he was.
“Hi sleepy-head,” said Raymond with a big smile.
Startled, Edgar leapt off the bench. He was still wearing his Expos cardigan.
“I don’t suppose You-know-who is still undecided about me?” asked Edgar, knowing exactly what the answer was.
“I’m afraid not,” Raymond countered. “This is it. You have officially died.”
Edgar returned to the bench and sat down. Raymond sat next to him.
“After you collapsed, you were rushed to the Jewish General,” explained Raymond. “The doctors did everything they could, but you slipped into a coma and ultimately needed a machine to help you breathe. You hung in there for a number of months though and the entire country was praying for you. You won’t believe how many people came to sit by your bedside!”
Raymond pulled out his phone and showed Edgar a video that was recorded from his hospital room. The room looked cold and the bed seemed uncomfortable. It pained Edgar to see himself lying motionless and attached to dozens of wires and several machines. The video first showed Edgar being examined by nurses and doctors, but then the visitors started to come in.
The Prime Minister, Premier, Mayor and the Commissioner of baseball all came to see him. All of Edgar’s co-workers, past and present, came to see him. Current Expos players and alumni came to see him. Even George Siegel Hughes visited him. There were also countless baseball fans and strangers who came into Edgar’s room. Some stayed for a few minutes; others spent a couple of hours with him. The attention and warm wishes were welcoming for Edgar, but he was still struggling with a few outstanding items.
“How did I get here?” he asked.
“Well, the doctors determined your condition showed no sign of improvement,” explained Raymond. “Believe me, they tried everything; many consultations with many doctors were held. But the decision was made this morning to turn off your breathing machine. You passed away peacefully.”
Edgar asked a follow up question.
“What day is it?”
“It’s April 8,” Raymond answered. “The Expos’ home opener is this afternoon.”
Edgar shook his head and started to cry.
“What a tragedy!” he exclaimed. “I brought them back and died before first pitch.”
“It’s not tragic at all,” Raymond responded. “They named the stadium after you. Bateman Field is the new home of the Montreal Expos! The food vendors are also selling an item called ‘Bateman Bagels.’ A local brewery even created a beer in your honour – Bateman’s Brew. Every home game is sold out and it’s thanks to you! You did amazing work! This is your legacy, Edgar, and you should be proud of what you accomplished.”
“I am proud,” said Edgar. “But I really wanted to be there. I wanted to watch the Expos play baseball again.”
“Trust me, you will,” said Raymond as he pointed to the Pearly Gates, which began to open.
Edgar stood up and examined what was beyond the gates. He turned back to Raymond.
“Isn’t Saint Peter suppose to be here?” asked Edgar.
“He’s on a lunch break,” Raymond replied. “I’m covering until he gets back.”
Edgar turned back to the open gates.
“What’s on the other side, Raymond?”
“There’s a path that will lead you to a room. Inside are two reclining chairs, a table with food and beverage and a high definition television that will show every Expo game.”
“That’s fantastic! But you said two chairs. Whose the other chair for?”
“Your father. He’s very excited to see you.”
Tears began flood Edgar’s eyes again. This time, they were tears of happiness.
Raymond escorted Edgar to the entrance. Before walking into Heaven, Edgar shook hands with Raymond and thanked him for his help.
“I guess this defines paradise,” said Edgar.
“Absolutely,” replied Raymond. “It’s just what the doctor ordered.”