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French Pitchers: Mathias Lacombe and the Future of Baseball in France

We knew the French in the NBA with Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Joakim Noah and now the superstar Victor Wembanyama, in hockey with Philippe Bozon and Cristobal Huet, and long before them, André Peloffy.

Now major baseball is eyeing players from France.

In 2007, the first Frenchman was center fielder Joris Bert drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he never had the opportunity to play in the MLB.

Now a second Frenchman has been chosen, in the 12th round (359th in total), last July, by the Chicago White Sox. The pitcher Mathias Lacombe comes from Pineuilh, a small town of 4,300 inhabitants in the Gironde department.

Like all young people in my region, I started playing rugby, but I didn’t like it, he explains to Radio-Canada Sports from Arizona, where he trains with the club. -school of the White Sox. One day, there was a regional sports association fair and there was baseball. I tried it and I immediately liked it. At first, I had fun with the others and, little by little, I climbed the ladder.

Lacombe quickly made it to his region’s team, then to the national team. Due to his performances, he sent his videos to the United States. He received a scholarship from Cochise College in Sierra Vista, Arizona. For two years, Mathias gave great performances and scouts flocked to see him play.

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Pitcher Mathias Lacombe

Photo : Mathias Lacombe

At the beginning, there were one or two recruiters who came to watch the matches, then four. And at the end of the season, there were around fifteen recruiters with radars to watch me throw, he remembers. It was quite impressive at first, then afterward it’s a bit strange to say this, but I got used to it and it added positive pressure to pull me up and pushed me to surpass myself.

Lacombe then shook the radars with throws over 150 km/h and had an extraordinary season. A good reason to be on the radars of scouts. He then returned home to France and waited for the draft.

I was following the draft remotely and thought I was going to be picked on the second day because some teams had already contacted me. But nothing happened. I was actually disappointed. And on the third day, I was absent-mindedly watching the draft, telling myself that it was over for me. I was really sad, he says.

The phone finally rang. The Chicago White Sox offered him a contract, but Lacombe found it insufficient. Then the Baltimore Orioles contacted him, and he accepted their offer. Meanwhile, the draft continued.

I had accepted the Orioles’ offer, but it was the White Sox who were ahead of them for the 12th round pick. Eventually the White Sox offered me the same contract and I was drafted. When I saw it was official, that I was drafted in the 12th round, I remember running around the house like crazy. I called everyone, I couldn’t sit still.

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Signing day for Mathias Lacombe

Photo : Mathias Lacombe

The pitcher then went to the team’s training facility in Phoenix. He was then really impressed by the facilities, which were far ahead of anything he had seen so far.

Here, everything is multiplied by 10, he explains. It’s really impressive, I’ve never seen that before. For example, in France, you will have one batting cage, but here, you have 12 lined up like that. Everyone can throw at the same time, you don’t need to wait your turn.

The athlete is now waiting for the month of February to find out in which league he will begin his career in North America. He wants to give everything and train hard to get there.

I would love, in three to five years, to reach the major leagues, that would be incredible, he said. But you have to be able to stay there. Playing a game in MLB would be doable, but playing a full season is another story. And then you have to last.

The will of an entire village

How was a village of 4,300 souls, in the heart of the rugby region, able to develop a baseball club?

In our region, we had American bases, says Alain Lacourtablaise, president of the Pineuilh Pitchers club. And a friend of our doctor discovered bats and gloves. People came together and in 1978 the first club was formed. In this group, there was a dad who had three children and who was a rugby coach. Faced with his children’s enthusiasm for baseball, he left rugby to become the club’s coach.

We started hosting international tournaments with American teams. Then, we got help from Quebecer Dom Dinelle, who was a scout for the Expos, who has his baseball school and who bought a franchise in Ontario. Dom came several times to train our young people.

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Alain Lacourtablaise, president of the Pitchers baseball club

Photo: Alain Lacourtablaise

Among these young people, several stood out from the crowd to go to schools in North America. But when we talk to him about Mathias Lacombe, the eyes of the president of the club where it all began light up.

We immediately saw Mathias’ potential, he’s a natural. When we learned that he was drafted into major league baseball, we were very proud of it. It is the result of 30 years of work. It is now a source of pride for the village, but also for the entire region. He is a brilliant boy who has great values ​​and is hardworking, he confides.

The survival of the club in danger

Joy and pride were indeed present in Alain Lacourtablaise, but when Radio-Canada Sports discussed the future of the club, tears began to flow.

You know, I have been carrying this club at arm’s length for over 40 years. I am now 84 and next year I will be leaving my position.

The president, in tears, stops for a moment, then continues.

To maintain a club like that, you have to persevere, he insists. I worked in the wine industry. And when I was taking care of the club, I then had to make up time on the field. In our region, rugby dominates and the federations have money to support the clubs. Baseball doesn’t really matter. We don’t have a permanent coach. It is the players who are abroad, like Arthur Perrois, who is currently playing in the Quebec Junior Elite League, who come to help us during the off-season.

But it’s getting more and more difficult, very difficult. It hurts, because, with the parents, we invested a lot. They are the ones who helped build the three fields we have today.

Mathias Lacombe is aware that the little money allocated to baseball in France is directed to clubs in big cities. He now wants to take advantage of his little notoriety, as he says, so that his club survives. He plans to return to his village with his experience. He would like to be a role model for young people so that baseball continues to evolve. He would like, through his approach, to wipe away the tears of the one by whom the dream was born.

I want to go as far as possible, for as long as possible, he assures. And through a snowball effect, young people will be able to have a role model and then come to the club. The fact that I am in the media could have a positive effect for French baseball, and I intend to take advantage of it.

Meanwhile, Alain Lacourtablaise tries to dry his tears and hopes that his heartfelt cry will be heard to get his club out of this impasse. However, he does not know if he can entertain the hope that this ball, which he throws desperately, can be quickly caught.

2023-11-29 16:45:25
#small #French #club #gates #major #baseball

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