With France and so many other places in the world still scrambling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it goes without saying that things won’t always (or often) go according to plan.
This year’s slate of baseball & softball competitions is no exception, and so yes, to the surprise of just about nobody, some of the main events have been modified before they even began.
Here’s a quick breakdown, starting with the Women’s Baseball World Cup, which was supposed to begin… um… today!
‘Next course of action’
Needless to say, that event — in which France was slated to participate for the first time — isn’t happening. And with good reason. Mexico, the host country, has been particularly hard hit by the virus, with more than 185,000 COVID deaths to date.
What is surprising is that it took the Cup’s organizing body, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), until last week to finally make the postponement official.
“The WBSC is greatly disappointed for the teams and their athletes regarding this difficult decision,” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said. “The WBSC remains in close contact with the Local Organizing Committee, the concerned National Federations/Teams and the respective authorities to determine the next course of action.”
Originally planned for last September, the Women’s Baseball World Cup was pushed back to November before being rescheduled, once again, to begin March 1. The plan now is to hold the event “later this year.”
The WBSC also took the opportunity to announce that moving forward, the Cup — until now a once-every-two-year event — will begin running on a four-year cycle, with the qualifiers, group-stage, and finals portions of the competition each taking place in separate years.
“The pandemic has forced us to rethink our events, innovate and be more efficient with tournament planning,” Fraccari said.
In the meantime, though, there is some good news — at least as far as Team France is concerned. Starting July 27/28, Les Bleues will take on the national teams of Britain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Poland in the second ever European Women’s Baseball Championships, to be held in Montpellier, France.
France also hosted the first such event, in 2019, and won! MVP honors went to Marjorie Brunel, who lives in Montpellier and plays first-division (D1) softball for the nearby Clapiers-Jacou Rabbits along with fellow national team member Geraldine Gauzelin.
Speaking of D1 softball, the sport’s governing body, the FFBS, announced just last week that it’s all systems go for the five-team league, which wasn’t able to play in 2020 but is cleared for competition this year starting May 9.
Opening Day will feature matchups between the Pessac Pantheres and defending champion Saint-Raphaël Comanches; and the Grenoble Grizzlies and Evry Pharaons. The Clapiers-Jacou Rabbits play their first games on May 23, against the Grizzlies.
Weekend games will take place intermittently through Sept. 19, when Grenoble takes on Saint-Raphaël, and the Rabbits battle the Pantheres. Click here for the full schedule.
The teams will also participate in a Challenge de France tournament, albeit on the weekend of Oct. 2-3 rather than in late May, as originally scheduled. The event will take place in the far northern city of Valenciennes.
Last but not least, the FFBS has also given the green light, officially, to the D1 baseball season, which was originally expected to begin in early April but will instead kick off the weekend of April 24/25, with games in Toulouse, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, La Rochelle, Metz and Montpellier.
For the regular-phase of the season — which runs until mid July (with spillover games, if necessary, to be played the weekend of July 24/25) — the league’s 11 teams will be divided into two groups.
Pool A features the Montigny-le-Bretonneux Cougars, PUC Paris, Rouen Huskies, Savigny-sur-Orge Lions, and Stade Toulousain. Competing in Pool B are the Clermont-Ferrand Arvernes, La Rochelle Boucaniers, Montpellier Barracudas, Metz Cometz, Nice Cavigal and Sénart Templiers.
The top two teams in each pool qualify for a playoff phase that begins Aug. 1. From there, the two finalists will compete in a best-of-five championship series beginning Aug. 15. For the full schedule, click here.
Early favorites include the defending champion Huskies and the retooled Templiers. Those two teams will also compete — along with Montpellier, Savigny, Montigny, La Rochelle, Metz and Toulouse — in the mid-season Challenge de France tournament.
The four-day event will take place in both La Rochelle and Pineuilh, a small town about 70 kilometers west of Bordeaux. Originally planned for April 29-May 2, the Challenge will instead begin on May 21, the FFBS announced.