French Baseball And The Shadow Of War

It’s with a certain sense of déjà-vu that alarming world events of far weightier significance than sport erupt just as the start of the French baseball & softball season is finally on the horizon.

Two years ago it was the pandemic, which forced the sport’s governing body in the France, the FFBS, to first freeze all activities and ultimately cancel the season outright. This time it’s war, in Ukraine, launched just days ago by an invading Russian army, with far-reaching consequences that are still impossible to gauge.

It feels trite, once again, to even talk about baseball & softball in such a context. But just as it did during the early days of the pandemic – even when France and so many other places around the world were in a strict lockdown – life does, in fact, go on.

That goes for sport too, to the degree that it’s possible. And for now, at least, the major spring and summer competitions in France are set to go ahead as scheduled.

The conflict in Ukraine is fresh and evolving, however, and just yesterday (Feb. 28), the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) issued a major statement that could very well affect events here in France.

“The WBSC stands in solidarity with Ukraine and the entire international sports movement in its call to end the violence and restore peace,” the body declared.

“The WBSC also supports the IOC Executive Board’s request for International Federations to relocate events away from Russia and Belarus and not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”

That latter part of the statement will have a direct impact, presumably, on the Confederation Cup, formerly the CEB Cup, which is scheduled to take place in France (in Rouen and Montigny-le-Bretonneux) starting June 8.

Of the six teams slated to play in the international club competition, two are French: The Rouen Huskies and Montpellier Barracudas. But there’s also a Belarusian team on the program, Minsk Baseball, and in light of the WBSC statement, that group is likely to be barred.

“The WBSC will assist the WBSC’s continental body – WBSC Europe – with this measure,” the statement goes on to say.

Would the Minsk team be replaced, in that case? Would the tournament go ahead with just five teams, as it did in 2021, when the CEB Cup, as it was still known, took place in Sénart?

The answer to that question could impact the format of the competition. Will participating teams only play in a round-robin format, like in 2021? Or will there be a semi-final and final round?

Those questions and more will have to be addressed in the weeks and months ahead. The bigger concern, in the meantime, is the health and safety of all those directly impacted by the conflict, including the Ukrainian Baseball & Softball National Federation.

Let’s pray for peace.

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