Can France’s 2020 Season Still Be Salvaged?

All’s quiet at the ol’ ballpark (Credit: Owen Ozanich)

MONTPELLIER — Another day, another disappointing announcement in the world of baseball and softball.

The news this time concerns boys baseball — of the Under-12 and Under-18 variety. Earlier today, the Confédération Européenne de Baseball (CEB) announced that the European U-12 Championships, scheduled to take place between July 7-11 in Mortsel, Belgium, are… say it ain’t so… cancelled.

The outlook isn’t quite as dismal for the continent’s top U-18 players, at least not yet. Their championship tournament, due to be played in Macerata, Italy from between July 13-18, is only postponed. With some luck the competition will take place in September or early October, the CEB noted. But all of that, of course, remains to be seen.

The same goes for the 2020 Women’s Baseball World Cup, which was supposed to begin Sept. 11 in Monterrey, Mexico. That too has been delayed until further notice, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) revealed on April 1.

Needless to say, the April Fool’s Day announcement was no laughing matter for the 30 young women who’d been pre-selected, just two weeks earlier, to represent France in what was to be its first-ever World Cup appearance.

Thirty women made it onto Team France’s preliminary roster (FFBS)

France’s top male baseball players have had their fair share of disappointment too, starting with the 11th-hour suspension of the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, which were supposed to kick off March 13 in Tucson, Arizona.

Soon afterwards word came down that back in France, all baseball and softball activities would be frozen until at least June 1. No games. No tournaments. No practices even. Rien!

The country, in the meantime, remains in lockdown as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to make its way across the planet, spreading death and uncertainty. More than 15,000 people have died in France alone.

Obviously, there are bigger things going on right now than baseball and softball. But that doesn’t mean players and fans should give up hope that at least part of the 2020 season can be salvaged.

The current target date for lifting the national lockdown in France is May 11. Everything depends, of course, on how the pandemic plays out. Also, President Emmanuel Macron, in his latest national address, made it clear that even after May 11, spectacles and large events would still be off limits.

Still, there’s a chance that the moratorium — at least on practicing — could be lifted on June 1, as the Fédération Française de Baseball et Softball (FFBS) is hoping.

And who knows? With a little luck, the country’s top-division baseball and softball clubs might still be able to squeeze in the semblance of a season, especially if teams are willing to play throughout August, when they were originally supposed to have a several-week break prior to the post-season.

The FFBS hasn’t yet ruled out the possibility. But it’s not making any promises easier. For now, in other words, players, coaches, organizers, fans and yes, bloggers too, have no choice but to hurry up and wait. And that’s the one game nobody wants to play.

–Benjamin Witte (benjawitte@gmail.com)

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