If your are looking to catch the big game on TV, there is certainly no shortage of sports bars in France, especially in Paris, But what about watching—or even better, playing— American sports? Contrary to what you might have thought, you do have options when it comes to playing and watching American football and baseball in the land of soccer and rugby.
Baseball. America’s pastime. Although still quite rare in France, baseball is gaining a following among expats and French alike. Just last week I was in a Decathlon sports store and saw baseball mitts, balls and bats on sale. They may have been in the kids’ section, but this was still a pleasant surprise for me. They also seem to have quite a selection online. For the adults, The Baseball Shop in Toulouse offers the real deal: gloves, bats, jerseys, etc. for both softball and baseball. If you don’t happen to live in the Toulouse area, you can order via their website.
Having the equipment is one thing though. To really play, you need a field and a team. Surprisingly, there’s actually quite an impressive baseball community in France, including a number of leagues with different skill/age levels. There are even several National French Teams, including the senior level. The Féderation française de baseball et softball (FFBS) website has a wealth of information regarding baseball, softball and cricket leagues including a map of where to play and a list of baseball teams in France.
You can also follow French baseball news here.
Alex McCardell, the President of Stade Toulousain Baseball was kind enough to speak with me about his baseball club. His comments are below. Thanks Alex!
“Stade Toulousain Baseball has existed since the mid 1980′s. In 2011, we have 160 members comprising 9 teams. Not only do we have an Elite team (division 1 equivalent), we have several youth teams starting at age 6, as well a woman’s softball team, several senior teams, as well as a junior team. We play within the French Baseball Federation (FFBS) program.
We are the largest baseball club in the region, and last year we won the National 2 French championship. Our Elite team, the highest level, has been competing regularly with the best clubs in France. In 2005, we finished second and qualified for the European championships.
We have two players that have signed with MLB clubs, including Andy Paz who currently plays with the Elite squad as catcher.
The baseball season runs from March to October. According to the level, the championship program varies. For the Elite, they are 8 teams spread out between Paris, Rouen, Montpellier, Pessac (Bordeaux), and Toulouse.
In Toulouse we also collaborate regularly with the French “espoir” that develops the youth program for the French national teams.
We are supported yearly by the Mayor of Toulouse and the Conseil General Haute Garonne to develop the sport and the youth program. We compete at the regional level and national. We are always recruiting new players to help reinforce our position. We also have several foreigners who have spent several years with the club.
You can learn more about our program here.”
AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN FRANCE
While living in Grenoble, I had heard there was a team there, but I never got around to seeing a game. However, after learning about the Féderation française de football américain (FFFA), I know I need to see a game! There are over 20,000 licensed players among 171 clubs throughout France: so many, in fact, that the site has a club search function.
The FFFA also has a page dedicated to explaining the fundamentals of the game in French, which could prove very helpful for those who are new to the game.
Now you have no excuse not to participate!
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