Posted by simon c on 2008 May 17日 Saturday
An interesting article about a minor sport in a major country, baseball in France. It kinda mirrors ice hockey in Japan where the sport’s development was largely driven by one man (now jailed Tsutsumi who supported the sport nationally through the Seibu-Kokudo group companies, otherwise hockey would’ve been still confined in Hokkaido which is very Canadian in climate). (Via Dodger Thoughts)
Completed in 1995, practically in the center of town, the field was the country’s first artificial turf park and instantly became coveted by baseball clubs everywhere. It also was used for national championships and international competitions between high schools from all over Europe, and for soccer and other sports by local schools. Over the years it also helped increase, if only slightly, local interest in baseball and inspired legends such as Frederic Hanvi.
Hanvi started playing in Montigny when he was 6, and last year as an 18-year-old became the second Frenchman selected in a Major League Baseball draft after he was recruited as a catcher (called a “receiver” here) by the Minnesota Twins. (The first was Joris Bert, an outfielder drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and now with one of their minor league teams.)
Christophe Herard, president of the Montigny baseball club, talks proudly about Hanvi, noting that his parents and friends eagerly watch his career. He is finishing school in France before he heads off in June for training in Florida.
“The [American recruiters] were placing a kind of bet on him,” Herard says. “The road is still very long and tough . . . but we are going to follow him in Montigny.”
But baseball remains a marginal sport in Montigny. Last year the town’s gymnastics club was the most popular, with 1,100 members, followed by soccer with 850. With just 160 members, the Montigny baseball club may be one of the largest in France, but it’s still smaller here than fishing and badminton.
Even when the championships for the top-level teams (equivalent to Class-A baseball in the U.S.) were played in Montigny, they drew only 100 people to the 230-seat stands.