Mets series first of 22 'home' games
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Montreal Expos are headed back to Puerto Rico -- even though they may not recognize the stadium.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium has undergone major renovations since the Expos played 22 "home" games there last season.
The stadium's capacity has been increased by about 6,000 to accommodate 20,000 fans. There are also more outfield seats, new artificial turf, a new scoreboard and renovated locker rooms.
Local authorities and promoter Antonio Munoz hope the improvements will convince major league officials that Puerto Rico has the ability to be the Expos' permanent home.
Montreal -- missing departed Latin stars Vladimir Guerrero and Javier Vazquez -- is scheduled to play 22 games in San Juan's beginning with a series against the New York Mets this weekend and one against defending champion Florida early next week.
In May, the Expos host Milwaukee and San Francisco. Toronto, Atlanta and Pittsburgh come in July.
Munoz's company MB Sports paid $10 million to Major League Baseball to bring the games this season after paying $6.6 million last year.
The Puerto Rican businessman submitted a formal proposal to relocate the Expos to the island, competing with groups from Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas and Monterrey, Mexico.
The commissioner's office has said that it hopes to have a decision on the team's future by the All-Star break in July.
One of the main obstacles that could thwart Puerto Rico's bid is that the stadium does not have a capacity for more than 30,000 people, making it necessary for more renovations or a new ballpark.
The Expos were bought by Major League Baseball's 29 other teams before the 2002 season.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press