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From Yankee Stadium to Oakmont Bakery, French players enjoy American culture during FIBI trip

A language barrier of varying height stood between members of the baseball team from France and those on a team consisting of players from Springdale, Highlands, Deer Lakes and Valley as they met Tuesday afternoon at Springdale High School as part of the Freeport International Baseball Invitational.

Between the lines, the international language of baseball needed no translation.

The spirit of competitiveness took over each bench as the teams battled for two hours.

France – or more specifically, the Hawks from La Guerche de Bretagne, a town of approximately 4,000 about 300 kilometers west of Paris – won Tuesday’s game, 12-3.

“We are all excited to be here,” team member Matheo Pasquer said. “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 years old 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 see the Yankees beat up on 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 a great experience out of many great experiences.”

France is back at the Freeport International for the first time in several years. They are the first international team to take part since 2019.

“This is fantastic,” said Amanda Noel (Brestensky), Springdale athletic director and host for the FIBI games at Springdale through Saturday.

“I’ve grown up around the Internationals and have helped out since I was a little kid. Just to be able to have a part in it and see and international team like France play here, on my home field, it is something special.”

The team hoped to visit the United States last year and play at the Freeport International, but covid logistic issues prevented the group from traveling.

Bruno Pasquer, a Hawks assistant coach, said that after last year’s cancellation, plans for this year were quickly put in place. Flights were booked last September, and money was secured for various trip expenses.

FIBI vice president Dave Brestensky said he is pleased 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 a part of the schedule since then. The Hawks arrived in Freeport on Saturday, and team members continued to immerse themselves in American culture.

The team departs Pittsburgh for New York City on Saturday, so FIBI officials adjusted this week’s schedule to maximize the team’s on-field opportunities.

The week of games started one day earlier than usual as France faced a team from Freeport on Monday evening at James E. Swartz Memorial Field.

Freeport was able to come away with a 10-0 victory.

“We were both anxious and excited to play that game,” Matheo Pasquer said. “We lost the game, so we were a little sad, but it was a great time and great experience just like we hoped for.”

While Monday’s game was a tough one for the French players, the day wasn’t that bad overall as team members visited various spots around Pittsburgh, including the Andy Warhol Museum.

They will head to PNC Park on Thursday to see the Pirates take on the Phillies.

“Pittsburgh is a beautiful city,” Matheo Pasquer said.

On Wednesday, France will play at 2 pm at Armstrong High School and 8 pm at Swartz Field. The team will also play at 2 pm Thursday at Armstrong and at 11 am and 2 pm Friday at Swartz Field.

The annual USA vs. International game, normally played at 8 pm Saturday, will be Friday this year so the French players will be able to play, FIBI president Chuck Sarver said.

A number of the French players are staying this week with host families.

Kittanning’s Todd and Tracie Bowser are housing two of the players this week — Theo Chopin and Mathys Rodriguez — and trips to buy pastries at Oakmont Bakery, lunch at Primanti Brothers, a ride up and down the Duquesne Incline and a foray into the Strip District to buy Pirates T-shirts are just part of their experiences this week.

The Bowsers hosted the entire team for a pool party at their home Sunday evening.

“My wife is the assistant director of the Armstrong County Tourism Bureau, and she got involved with Freeport,” Todd Bowser said. “It’s been great. We have a daughter, Trista, who is 22, but we’ve never had a son, so having (Theo and Mathys) around has been fun. We’ve done so much already. And they are two of the most polite, respectful people. Google Translate has been big in helping us understand each other and communicate.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’ll do it forever now.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 724-226-4665, mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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