This is one of the best scenes in the movie Moneyball. In a dark room, two Oakland Athletics executives (Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill) watch the video of an obese prospect. The player hits the ball away. Far far away. He reached the first goal. Realizes he has a chance for a double. It therefore continues its course. But he falls. Makes three barrels. Cover with sand. The humiliation. He comes back to first base crawling like a baby.
Posted on June 14, 2021 at 7:45 a.m.
“Except the ball went 60 ‘over the fence,” says Jonah Hill. The batter hit a homerun and didn’t even notice it! The two leaders watched the hope rise and finish his race, smiles from ear to ear. Thirty seconds later, Brad Pitt breaks the silence.
“How can you not find baseball romantic? ”
Indeed. This is probably the phrase that best describes baseball. It is a sport as beautiful as it is cruel. An inexhaustible source of stories of players who fall to get up better.
Like Charles Leblanc.
During the pandemic, this Quebec player chomped at the bit. He squatted baseball diamonds in Quebec and the United States to train with two unusual teammates: his fiancée and his father. He drove 33 hours to hit balls in a cage. Only to be told that he was not invited to the training camp of his organization, the Texas Rangers.
Well today Charles Leblanc is one of the best hitters in the AAA level. In early June, he even hit a phenomenal .400 average. “I’m only one call away from playing in the major leagues,” he blurted out.
Charles Leblanc was born into a baseball-loving family. “The first thing I got on my head was an Expos cap! At 4, he played his first matches. At 10, he dominates. At 16, he was selected for the Canadian team. It opens the doors to American colleges for him. At 18, he joined the University of Pittsburgh program – despite poor English.
“I had just studied for a year at Cégep Vanier to familiarize myself with the language. But I sank my two English lessons. I did not feel well. Especially since I had always been relatively good at school. ”
He left for the United States anyway. Fortunately, the transition is smooth.
Until midway through his sophomore year of college in 2016, he started receiving calls and emails from recruiters. Not just one or two. Around twenty.
Which is unusual. Because in the United States, college baseballers have to wait until the third year after high school to be recruited.
” It was crazy. I didn’t quite understand what was going on. It was there that I learned that my year at Vanier counted. And that I was eligible a year earlier than expected. ”
On the day of the draft, he is on Cape Cod, with his parents.
“The Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics were courting me. It was about the third round. Except in the third round, the Tigers don’t choose me. Neither do the A’s. What is happening ? I was panicking. I went up to my room on the second floor. Then my agent called me and said, “Look at your computer, your name should come out.” As it turned out, when I went back downstairs, I heard: “The Texas Rangers select Charles Leblanc, from Laval.” Everyone was going crazy. I talk about it and I still have chills! ”
Especially since the Rangers were not very active courtiers. A recruiter had spoken to him for five minutes in a hallway at the university. That’s all. “All I knew from Rangers was that Rougned Odor had punched José Bautista in the face because of his bat flip in the playoffs [rires] ! »
Between 2017 and 2019, Charles Leblanc rose through the ranks one by one. Up to level AA. The 2020 season was to be the most important of his career. Its passage to the AAA level.
Then the pandemic struck.
In the spring of 2020, minor league baseball announced the cancellation of their season. At 24, without a club, Charles Leblanc returned to live with his parents in Laval. For months, he squatted the North Crown baseball fields for batting practice.
“I went to Chopin Park, or to the field in Sainte-Thérèse. The Laval Associates then loaned me a batting cage. She was literally next to our house. Every day I hit balls thrown by my father. It was really weird. ”
Then the snow began to fall. Winter has set in. And the second wave of the pandemic hit Quebec hard. Gyms have closed. Charles Leblanc had nowhere to train.
“It was really difficult. So on February 3rd, my fiancee and I packed up the tank and left for Texas. ”
They rolled. And rolled. And still rolled. For 33 hours, to San Antonio, where a Rangers pitcher, Blake Bass, hosted them. “For the first time in months, I had access to a gym. I was also able to train with him in a batting cage. ”
At the beginning of March, Charles and his sweetheart packed their car again. This time they drove five hours north. Until Frisco, where Charles played in 2019. “I needed to train outside, on real ground. I called the GM. I asked him if it was possible. He accepted me. ”
Throughout the month of March, Charles and his sweetheart lived between their hotel room and the stadium.
My girlfriend came with me to the field. She was the one who put the balls in the machine so that I could hit. Or who sent me flies. Or wheels. Lucky she was by my side.
After this training, Charles Leblanc felt ready to participate in Rangers training camp in Arizona. But the invitation never came. Instead, he was posted to the development camp at Round Rock, three hours south of Frisco. Two months later, Charles and his fiancée are still there. Because that’s where the AAA Rangers club-school, Charles’s new team, plays.
And how is it going?
Really very good. Charles Leblanc is off to a flying start. He hits for over .300. His average even reached 400 in early June. In defense, he still hasn’t made any mistakes this season. Despite his impressive stats, he often hits low in the roster. “Does that mean I’m one of the worst?” No. It just means that the team wants to see other guys hit the top of the role, ”he explains.
This excellent start to the season brings him closer to his goal: the major leagues. A possible dream. Especially since the Rangers have little depth in the third cushion. The incumbent, Charlie Culberson (32), strikes for, 223. Brock Holt (33), for, 242. With averages of .143 and .063, Andy Ibanez and Anderson Tejeda failed to take advantage of their callbacks to establish themselves. Charles Leblanc could well be the next player recalled by the big club.
After that, how can you not find baseball romantic?