Baseball Hall of Fame nominee Tim Raines received the key to Montreal Friday morning, and Mayor Denis Coderre took the opportunity to reaffirm that the city is closer than ever to welcoming back a Major League club.
Raines, who came to the city when he was 19 years old, said he feels like a Montrealer.
"Montreal, this is my second home," Raines said.
"I want to thank you guys for making it easy for me to put on that uniform. You guys inspired me to be the best that I could be."
Raines played 13 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos and was considered a star outfielder.
In January, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While introducing Raines, Coderre dangled before Montrealers the prospect of a return of the Expos.
"We want the team back," Coderre said.
"[We] have investors, have a plan, and the best way to start is with the Rock. And Rock is here now."
Bell Centre standing ovation
On Thursday, Raines attended a gala organized in his honour which Coderre said raised $132,000 for Baseball Quebec, a provincial baseball organization.
He then went to the Bell Centre to take part in the ceremonial puck drop before the Habs played the Florida Panthers.
Fans went wild when Raines stepped out onto the ice before the game.
He said the reception left him speechless.
"The ovation I got at the hockey game was — wow. That's all I can say, just, wow."
More honours at Big O
The honours continue Friday night at a ceremony before the first of two exhibition matches between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Olympic Stadium.
Coderre said he anticipates the crowd going wild at the sight of Raines.
"Tonight, with more than 50,000 people, my only fear is the roof — because it might blow off there will be so much love," Coderre said.
Raines is currently the roving outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Blue Jays.
Last year, the Blue Jays played two exhibition games against the Boston Red Sox in Montreal and drew more than 100,000 people to the Olympic Stadium.