A language barrier of varying heights stood between members of the France baseball team and those of a team made up of players from Springdale, Highlands, Deer Lakes and Valley when they met Tuesday afternoon at Springdale High School in as part of the Freeport International Baseball Invitational.
Between the lines, the international language of baseball needed no translation.
The competitive spirit took hold of every bench as the teams battled it out for two hours.
France – or more specifically the Hawks of La Guerche de Bretagne, a town of about 4,000 people about 300 kilometers west of Paris – won Tuesday’s game, 12-3.
“We are all delighted to be here,” said team member Matheo Pasquer. “Playing these games is a new challenge for us. It’s a big challenge, and it’s cool. We all love baseball. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 6, like most of our players here.
Pasquer is a big fan of the New York Yankees and superstar Aaron Judge, and he was happy to watch the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 14-1, at Yankee Stadium on July 16.
“It was like a dream to be there,” Pasquer said. “The stadium was so beautiful. It was just one great experience among many great experiences.
France is back at Freeport International for the first time in several years. It is the first international team to participate since 2019.
“It’s fantastic,” said Amanda Noel (Brestensky), Springdale athletic director and host of FIBI matches in Springdale through Saturday.
“I grew up around internationals and have helped since I was little. The simple fact of being able to play a role there and to see an international team like France playing here, on my ground, is something special.
The team hoped to visit the United States last year and play Freeport International, but covid logistical issues prevented the group from travelling.
Hawks assistant coach Bruno Pasquer said after last year’s cancellation plans for this year were quickly put in place. The flights were booked last September and money was obtained for various travel expenses.
FIBI vice-president Dave Brestensky said he was happy to have France here this year after months of planning.
The team flew to America on July 14, and games in Connecticut, sightseeing and other activities have been part of the schedule ever since. The Hawks arrived in Freeport on Saturday and team members continued to immerse themselves in American culture.
The team departs Pittsburgh for New York on Saturday, so FIBI officials have adjusted this week’s schedule to maximize the team’s opportunities on the field.
The game week started a day earlier than usual as France took on a Freeport side on Monday night at James E. Swartz Memorial Field.
Freeport were able to come away with a 10-0 win.
“We were both anxious and excited to play this match,” said Matheo Pasquer. “We lost the game so we were a bit sad, but it was a great time and a great experience as we hoped.”
While Monday’s game was tough for the French players, the day wasn’t too bad overall as team members visited various locations around Pittsburgh, including the Andy Warhol Museum.
They will travel to PNC Park on Thursday to watch the Pirates take on the Phillies.
“Pittsburgh is a beautiful city,” said Matheo Pasquer.
On Wednesday, France will play at 2:00 p.m. at Armstrong High School and at 8:00 p.m. at Swartz Field. The team will also play at 2 p.m. Thursday at Armstrong and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday at Swartz Field.
The annual USA vs International game, normally played at 8 p.m. Saturday, will take place on Friday this year so French players can play, FIBI president Chuck Sarver said.
A number of French players are staying with host families this week.
Kittanning’s Todd and Tracie Bowser are hosting two of the players this week – Theo Chopin and Mathys Rodriguez – and trips to buy pastries at Oakmont Bakery, lunch at Primanti Brothers, a stroll down the Duquesne Incline and a foray into the Strip District to buying Pirates t-shirts are just part of their experiences this week.
The Bowsers hosted the entire team for a pool party at their home on Sunday night.
“My wife is the assistant director of the Armstrong County Office of Tourism and she’s been involved in Freeport,” Todd Bowser said. ” It was great. We have a daughter, Trista, who is 22, but we’ve never had a son, so having (Theo and Mathys) around us has been fun. We have already done so much. And they are two of the most polite and respectful people. Google Translate has helped us a lot to understand each other and communicate.
“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this, but it certainly won’t be the last. I will forever now.