This is one of the best scenes in the movie Moneyball. In a dark room, two Oakland Athletics executives (Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill) watch the video of an overweight prospect. The player knocks the ball away. Far far away. He reached the first goal. Realizes he has a chance for a double. It therefore continues its course. But he falls. Made three barrels. Cover with sand. The humiliation. He returns to first base and crawls like a baby.
“Except the ball went 60 ‘over the fence,” says Jonah Hill. The batter hit a homerun and did not even notice it! The two leaders saw the hope rise and complete the race, smiling from ear to ear. Thirty seconds later, Brad Pitt breaks the silence.
“How can you not find baseball romantic?”
Actual. This is probably the term that best describes baseball. It is a sport as beautiful as it is cruel. An inexhaustible source of stories about players who fall to recover.
I’m Charles Leblanc.
During the pandemic, this Quebec player earned a little. He chopped baseball diamonds in Quebec and the United States to train with two unusual teammates: his fiancé and his father. He drove 33 hours to hit balls in a cage. Just to be told he was not invited to the training camp of his organization, the Texas Rangers.
Well today, Charles Leblanc is one of the best hitters at the AAA level. In early June, he even hit a phenomenal 0.400 average. “I’m just a call away from playing in the big leagues,” he exclaimed.
Charles Leblanc was born into a baseball-loving family. “The first thing I got on my head was an Expos hood! At 4 o’clock he played his first matches. At 10 o’clock he dominates. At 4 pm, he was selected for the Canadian team. It opens the doors to American colleges for him. At 6 p.m., he began the University of Pittsburgh program – despite poor English.
“I had just studied for a year at Cégep Vanier to get to know the language. But I sank my two English lessons. I did not feel well. Especially since I had always been relatively good at school. ”
He went to the United States anyway. Fortunately, the transition is smooth.
Until midway through the 2016 college year, he began receiving calls and emails from recruiters. Not just one or two. Around twenty.
Which is unusual. Because in the United States, college baseball players have to wait until the third year of high school to be recruited.
“It was crazy. I did not quite understand what was going on. That was where I learned that my year at Vanier was raining. And that I was qualified a year earlier than expected.”
On the day of the draft, he is on Cape Cod, with his parents.
“The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics gave me. It was about the third round. Except in the third round, the tigers do not choose me. A is rather. What’s up ? I panicked. I went up to my room on the second floor. Then my agent called me and said, “Look at your computer, your name should come out.” When it turned out, I heard, “The Texas Rangers are choosing Charles Leblanc, from Laval, when I went down again.” Everyone went crazy. I’m talking about it and still have chills! ”
Especially since the Rangers were not very active courters. A recruiter had talked to him for five minutes at a time at the university. That’s it. “All I knew from Rangers was that Rougned Odor had punished José Bautista in the face for batting in the playoffs [rires] ! ”
Between 2017 and 2019, Charles Leblanc rose through the ranks one by one. Up to level AA. The 2020 season was to be the most important in his career. Its passage to the AAA level.
Then the pandemic struck.
In the spring of 2020, the minor league baseball announced the cancellation of the season. 24, without a club, Charles Leblanc returned to his parents in Laval. For several months he squatted on the North Crown baseball fields for batting practice.
“I went to Chopin Park, or to the field in Sainte-Thérèse. Laval Associates then lent me a percussion cage. She was literally next to our house. Every day I hit balls thrown by my father. It was very strange. ”
Then the snow began to fall. Winter has begun. And the second wave of the pandemic hit Quebec hard. Gyms have closed. Charles Leblanc had nowhere to train.
“It was very difficult. So on February 3rd, my fiance and I packed up and left for Texas. ”
They rolled. And rolled. And still rolled. For 33 hours to San Antonio, where a Rangers pitcher, Blake Bass, hosted them. “For the first time in several months, I had access to a gym. I was also able to train with him in a batting cage. ”
In early March, Charles and his girlfriend packed the car again. This time they drove five hours north. Until Frisco, where Charles played in 2019. “I needed to train outside, for real reason. I called GM. I asked him if that was possible. He accepted me. ”
During the month of March, Charles and his girlfriend lived between the hotel room and the stadium.
My boyfriend came with me to the field. She was the one who put the bullets in the machine so I could hit. Or who sent me fluer. Or wheels. Lucky she was by my side.
After this training, Charles Leblanc felt ready to participate in Rangers training camp in Arizona. But the invitation never came. Instead, he was sent to the development camp at Round Rock, three hours south of Frisco. Two months later, Charles and his fiancée are still there. For that is where AAA Rangers club school, Charles’ new team, plays.
And how is it going?
Really very good. Charles Leblanc got off to a flying start. He hits in over .300. His average even reached 400 in early June. In defense, he has still not made any mistakes this season. Despite his impressive stats, he often hits low on the list. “Does that mean I’m one of the less good ones?” No. It just means that the team wants to see other boys hit the top of the role, he explains.
This excellent start to the season brings him closer to his goal: the big leagues. A possible dream. Especially since the Rangers have little depth in the third cushion. Starter Charlie Culberson (32) strikes, 223. Brock Holt (33), for, 242. With averages of .143 and .063, Andy Ibanez and Anderson Tejeda failed to take advantage of their calls to establish themselves. Charles Leblanc may well be the next player the big club remembers.
“I reap the benefits of the 2020 effort. For several months, everything I thought about was baseball, baseball, baseball. Today it pays off.”
After that, how can you not find baseball romantic?