Weekend return to Bois-Guillaume (Rouen): Woodchucks v. Montigny

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May 8th 2008
Published: May 14th 2008
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We are now in our final week of our final dance residency here in France. It has been (yet again) quite a while since I have written, and as has been my pattern thus far this year, you can expect a flurry of blog activity in the coming week. I take my moments as they come....but it is safe to say that the fact that I have not written in over a month is not a representation of lack of subject material. On the contrary, the last weeks have flown by at such a fast pace that I was shocked when I logged into my blog to see that my last post was posted 33 days ago!!!

Anyhow. Enough of that. Talking about time flying is a bit like talking about the weather. It is a given, yet it is one of the first topics we always turn to.

For the weekend that split in two our final two-week dance residency in France, I travelled by train to play with my old french team, the Bois-Guillaume Woodchucks.

It felt really good coming back to Bois-Guillaume. A big breath of fresh air and a nice change of pace from the fairly intense world that is a dance residency. I met Jean-Luc, the Woodchucks manager, in the train station in Paris St. Lazare. I almost missed the train to Rouen because I was sitting in a café and then waiting in front of the wrong departures screen at the station. When the train to Rouen did not show up on the screen I panicked, thinking that somehow I had come to the wrong train station. This is completely possible because there are several “main” stations in Paris: Montparnasse, Est, Nord, Lyon, and St. Lazare, each station for departures to the different regions of France.

Once I realized there were two departure points, I quickly ran in pursuit of the signs indicating “grandes lignes,” indicating the platform where I was to depart. As I was running past the train where I was supposed to be (yes…running past) I heard a voice say “no need to run, Will” (in French). It was Jean-Luc, of course, standing there smiling.

We sat on the train together and chatted about a number of things. We talked about the Challenge de France, a big baseball event where all of the First-division teams in France
Post-game KronenbourgPost-game KronenbourgPost-game Kronenbourg

French beers are so small!!!
come together once a year to compete. We talked about the Woodchucks team, this yeaer and last, about Josh, the American from last year, and Tony, the American who is there this year. Jean-Luc praised the work of Tony Lewis: how hard he was working with the younger teams and with the softball team, his training of the adult team and the countless hours he has put int to getting the field into shape. He also commented on Tony's generally positive demeanor and the fact that he is always smiling and cracking jokes.

That evening we arrived late; Laura was out in the backyard tending the barbecue, and Benedicte had prepared a pasta salad.

After dinner Jean-Luc and I ventured into the basement to try to dig up some uniform stuff and gear for me to use for the game the following game (all I had with me is my glove and some busted baseball cleats one of the guys in Montpellier had given me). After trying on 5 pairs of old baseball spikes, we finally found one pair that sort of fit me.

I sat in the living room watching a French tv talk show, a sort of round-table discussion about the non-profit from France that was caught trying to leave Sudan (I think it was Sudan) illegally taking with them an airplane full of orphaned children. The director of the non-profit was on the show, being barraged with questions about the event. As we were watching I noticed through the open door to the back yard something moving around. It was a hedgehog; jean-luc fetched a carrot from the kitchen and tried to feed it, but it just sat there, on the patio, totally frozen. It was doing its best to turn into a rock, but we were not fooled. Finally we left him alone and returned to the TV.

I got to bed around midnight. My bed was the fold-out in the family room, which is something that I am becoming quite accustomed to. 😊

By 7:30 I was up again, and by 9 we were out on the field getting ready for the game.

This actually was my first real game of the season and I was a bit nervous how I would hold up on the mound. Our opponent was to be the Montigny Cougars, who is currently 1st place in our division, a half game behind the Woodchucks.

I pitched the first game, giving up 7 runs, only one of those runs earned. We made six errors in the field and quite a few on the basepaths. Nonetheless, we were right in the game (thanks to our hitting which was quite good the whole day) and four separate times we had the lead, only to give it back to them the following inning. In the 5th inning I had to come out of the game because of a burst blood blister on my middle finger. Bernaquez, a 40-year-old righty, entered into the game, striking the next batter out and giving up one more run before squeezing out of the inning. The game went to 9 innings, 2 extra, and we could not put them away. They won on a top of the ninth 1st-pitch solo home run and we went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.

The second game we won 10-8.

The umpire was absolutely aweful the whole game. He was constantly forgetting the count on the batter and/or changing the count. One time on an intentional walk he forgot how many pitches had been thrown. Four balls were thrown and he was asking our pitcher to throw one more. Everyone knew that he had already thrown four. We were all laughing.

There was a controversy over one home run in the second game which ended up being the deciding points of the game. Vincent hit a ball to left-center into a low-hanging tree. Left-center is the deepest part of the park but a section of the outfield wall that hangs lower than the rest. And the controversy was that the ball went over this low section and therefore is not a home run. There was a huge argument because the umpire did not call it a home run right away and in fact called one of our runners out at home. But it was a home run! So discussion ensued, both coaches got involved, and finally the umpire made the decision to go out to the outfield and ask the outfielders what happened. Huh? The ump asks the players how to make the call? Never in my life.....

The discussion continued in the outfield with the two coaches, the ump, and one of our players ( who was coaching first base) who for some reason felt it was his place to be a part of it all.

In the end it was ruled a home run.

After the match we raked the field, then held a team stretch/team meeting in the outfield. Tony gave a speech about commitment and coming to practice, Bernie brought beers for all the guys (Kronenburg).

The makeup of the Bois-Guillaume team is very different from last year. There are two Canadian guys who played for Cherbourg last season but who had a falling out with their team and so came to play at Bois-Guillaume. One is Marc who came to France in 2001 to play baseball and decided to stay. The other is named Bernaquez, and I don’t know his story. He is the oldest guy on the team, 40 years old or so. He absolutely hacks—has an unconventional swing where he swings off his front foot and pulls everything to right field. But he hacks. I think both guys are paid a bit by the team for their travel from Cherbourg (2 ½ hour trip) and some extra. With his team ‘salary,’ Bernie buys a 24-pack of beer to bring to every game. He is the coolest cat I’ve met in French baseball. For sure. Both Marc and Bernie are superfriendly.

There is also Romain, a young player (19 yeares old) who played in Elite (first division) last year with St. Laud. He is a catcher, but also can play other positions.

Tony Lewis, the other American, is from Missouri and played ball at Missouri State University and then Drury University. I really like the guy. He gave me a baum bat to take back to Lithuania, but that’s not why I like him. He is very sincere, very friendly and also compassionate about the game and the B-G team. Solid hitter and shortstop.

Vincent Bertauts, a lefty, who played last year and works for Pizza Hut, has come back and is in fact pitching very well. He played great. He got the victory for us in the second game, and hit a home run too.

During a pause in the game Eric (a Woodchuck) was having a conversation with the coach for the Montigny team. The other coach was asking about the Woodchucks' two foreigners, saying that it was quite a move to hire two guys (most teams hire only one foreigner). Eric explained that in fact I came here during a break from work, and that I was just coming for fun. He explained that my real job is as a dancer in a dance company based out of New York. This apparently confused the other coach. Huh? You mean to tell me that the pitcher we just faced is not a REAL baseball player, but a dancer? Eric told me that he didn't believe the story for a second.


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