Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baseball in France : a clumsy love story

Since you guys collect baseball cards, chances are you follow baseball closely. Maybe you even collect cards because you played ball as a kid, and the hobby was a natural extension of your love of the game.
For me, it was the other way around. I started getting interested in baseball BECAUSE I collected cards. I know, it sounds strange. And it is. As I explained in my very first post here, I learned about the sport by looking at the backs of cards, and then by reading biographies. Stats are one thing, but the rules can be very confusing. Especially since, in France, there is no sport that even remotely looks like baseball.

It's quite simple : baseball does not exist here. No pee wee leagues, no leagues whatsoever actually, not even softball. Ok, that's not really true, I'm just saying this to emphasize. But still, there are only 200 clubs in France, and 10 000 people play the sport (there are 66 M people in France, about five times less than in the US). It could be worse, there are only 350 curling players in the country. But there're 2M people who play soccer in a league.

There are 30 baseball fields in all of France. That's one in every 20 000 square mile. Not ideal for a pick up game.
There has never been a baseball game on TV. Ever. There was an All star game in the late 80s, but not on national TV (the equivalent of HBO for us). Football, hockey and basketball aren't a problem, you can catch a game from time to time. But baseball ? Forget it. You have a bigger chance of seeing a darts competition.

The last time I held a bat was in 1994, and I really miss it. I used to play many sports, even though my favorite was basketball, and I'd spend countless hours on the playground near my place, come rain or snow. But I have no idea if I'm even good at baseball. It seems right up my alley, but I'd probably look real clumsy in a batting cage.

I did play catch a few years ago with my very good friend Rich. He was scouted by the Yankees when he was 16, was going to be Derek Jeter (same age, same position on the field), but injured his shoulder badly. So he became an artist instead. And a very good at that. But that's beside the point. The point is that he told me to take the catcher's position and to be ready, because he'd show me how big leaders throw a ball. And he did show me. It's been years, but I can still feel the sting on my palm. Maybe I'm not ready for the game after all...

On a side note, my friend threw the first pitch at the Dodgers- Cubs game last saturday. He says it was the greatest day in his life, and that's saying a lot, because he's lived some crazy things. But when you see his face on the video he posted, you can only believe him.


  1. Really enjoy hearing these stories about how you came to love baseball.

  2. thanks ! I don't always realize how boring or not it can be for people who don't care much about my life. But it's fun to write about. It's my big French-American novel.

  3. I actually wish I could see more darts on TV here. I have to rely on YouTube for watching tournaments....

    I really like this post Kevin because it reminds me that we take televised sports here in North America for granted, simply because they are all over the place.

    1. Well, I've been subscribing to MLB.TV since 2004, and even though quality at first was very bad because of my internet provider, it's much better now (still no HD though !)

      But let's not forget that cards became so popular at the start of the century because they were the only pictures of athletes that kids could have and look at. And it gave them something to smoke..

  4. Waitttaminute! Your friend is Buck 65? That's pretty sweet. He threw a pretty stellar first pitch as well, one of the best that I've seen.

    1. yup...I used to be somewhat linked to the music industry (might write about it some day). I interviewed him when he came to france the first time, we became friends and got closer when he lived in Paris for a few years. I'm actually hoping to catch his concert here in Paris tonight !