Baseball, incredibly popular in Japan, is making a comeback at the Tokyo Olympics in the company of softball, reserved for women, absent since the Beijing Olympics in Beijing.
But why not baseball for women? After all, the sport is becoming increasingly popular on lozenges around the world, and Japan is its great power, having won the last six world championships, after becoming number two, behind the Americans, in the first two editions.
“It was certainly a big disappointment for Japan, which has a female baseball structure that you will not find anywhere else,” said André Lachance, director of sports development and national director of women’s baseball at Baseball. Canada. They play women’s baseball from high school. They had professional leagues for a long time, now they are more industrial leagues: (the players) get paid to work for a company, as long as they play in the company team. It’s like Ameublement Tanguay had a team!
“Men’s professional teams also sponsor baseball for women now. It’s like the Toronto Blue Jays have a women’s team. “
Lachance is one of the major producers of women’s baseball on the world stage. After being the manager of the national team from 2004 to 2018, he went to lend a hand to the French baseball federation, and became the leader of their national team in 2019, an experience that the pandemic prevented him from renewing last year.
Although he would like to see a female component in the Olympic baseball tournament, he gives some explanations to understand why it is softball that once again secures the female component in this ball sport.
“There are various elements that explain the absence of baseball for women in Tokyo,” he said The Canadian Press during a telephone interview. First, we are a relatively young discipline: the first world championship took place only in 2004. It takes time to find a place, but there is a lot of expansion around the world. We see in Europe, it is France, Holland, Great Britain that arrive and other countries eventually.
“We do not yet have influence, the number of participating countries to be able to knock on the door of the games. Softball has been around for so long. It’s a shame, but in the past the principle was that little girls should start baseball before switching to softball when there was no more service for her. In several countries this is still the case. Add to that the NCAA, which offers softball and not baseball for women, and the structure (of softball) is much better established than we are now. “
Canada is a world power just like Japan, the United States and Taiwan on the women’s baseball scene. Of the eight women’s baseball world championships held since 2004 – including three presented in Canada – Lachance’s team has climbed to the podium six times: two silver medals and four bronze medals. Lachance says it with confidence: Canada would have represented a hope for a medal in Tokyo.
“I think so. The team is number two in the world. So we would have been a favorite for the podium, along with Japan, the United States and Taiwan. Behind this group are Australia, Venezuela and Cuba. It is certain that we had expected to return. from there with a medal. “
How does he explain the success of Canada, with its small population and therefore a smaller pool of players than other world powers?
“I think our approach, building teams with players who can play in multiple positions, has made the difference,” he said. This is what I see in retrospect. From the beginning, I have looked at how other teams are designed, and they have several players with a single position. I have always preferred athletes who can play more than one position, sometimes more than two.
“You definitely always have two or three players who only know pitch, but I have always emphasized appreciating female baseball players who can play more than one position. As coaches, we never lack solutions or alternatives during games. That is one of the reasons why we have managed to stay on top all this time. “
Is no one a prophet in his own country?
Despite its success on the international stage, women’s baseball is not even on the Canada Games program.
“One of the criteria for participating in the Canada Games is to have a Canadian championship where all the provinces are represented. We have only had this for three years, Lachance explains. It is therefore small victories like this that make us climb the table. We must continue the fight.
“When we applied for 2021, we were really not there. In 2025, we were not elected, but we knocked on the door. We are not really far. But it will take time. We are still a sport where there are two disciplines: softball boys and girls and baseball boys and girls. It certainly does not make sense to keep the four for multisport games. “
And in some provincial associations, women’s baseball is not yet popular.
“Not all provincial federations promote baseball for women. Quebec has put it into its strategic development. They prioritized it. Does everyone put it on the same level? I do not think. Does everyone see the potential? I think so.
“It is also the ability to deliver. on Prince Edward Island there is a full-time employee. In Quebec it is about ten.
“Just five years ago, the idea of having women’s leagues did not even exist. We thought maybe we did not have the pelvis or that the development would be better to play with the boys. We have reached the point of having enough people to establish regional and provincial leagues. “