La Guerche de Bretagne in Western France welcomed 320 players, 60 coaches, and 50 officials to the Interligues Little League® France tournament, hosted by the French Baseball and Softball Federation (FFBS).
On August 26-28, 2022, as the Little League Baseball® World Series celebrated championship weekend of its 75th Anniversary, the FFBS ran its largest event to date that featured Major Division and Senior Division baseball competition.
“Our leagues sent a combination of the best talents of their territory,” said François Collet, Executive Director of the FFBS and France’s District 1 Administrator. “Our ‘Ligues Régionales’ were modified following an administrative reform resulting in the determination of our Little League boundaries. We rebranded our Interligues to ‘Interligues Little League’ a couple of years ago, formalizing this event as a qualifier for the Europe and Africa Region Tournament.”
Branding for Little League France is part of the strategy to better identify and communicate about the program throughout the country.
“Prior to the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, FFBS also provided equipment to the local leagues,” said Mr. Collet. “The federation continues to communicate about Little League and to build loyalty amongst children by offering them goodies such as Little League France pins.”
The 2021 tournament featured 20 teams and this year, a total of 22 teams took the field, highlighted by 12 Senior Division baseball teams representing all of France’s metropolitan leagues. The Major Division tournament was contested amongst 10 teams.
“It’s two competitions in one event,” said Mr. Collet. “Leagues are sending a combination of the best talents from their territory to this event that has existed for more than 20 years (but was not organized every year).”
A couple of years ago, league boundaries were redrawn which created the 12 leagues now operating within Metropolitan France, and with rebranding, the chartered leagues are now recognized as Interligues Little League.
To enhance participation, the French Baseball and Softball Federation is now also offering funding for leagues to play in this national event, as well as for travel to the Europe and Africa Region tournaments.
“The cost to operate these tournaments, the number of games available to play, and placement of game officials are issues we are determined to overcome,” said Mr. Collet. “We are also building on the international opportunities Little League is providing, especially for our umpires. We hope these events motivate existing game officials and attract new ones. We strive to one day soon have one of our umpires become the first to take part in a World Series.”
The interest from communities, volunteers, and the families of players will continue to impact the growth and expansion of Little League throughout France and all of Europe. The unique experiences these events are offering is creating heightened exposure for the Little League program.
“We also would like to launch a softball event based on this approach next year as participation numbers in softball are small and we currently don’t provide a lot of playing time opportunities,” said Mr. Collet. “In that regard, we think the Little League program is a perfect fit to encourage participation and provide lifetime experiences that will benefit everyone and help us develop the sport.”
In recent years, France has not fielded a team for the Little League Baseball Europe and Africa Region tournament, played in Kutno, Poland, as leagues struggle to gather enough funding to participate in the event. In 2022, however, France participated in the Intermediate (50/70) and Senior League Baseball Europe and Africa Region Tournaments. Little league France expects to field more teams in other baseball and softball divisions in the seasons ahead.
“We’re thankful to Little League for providing lifetime opportunities to children, parents, coaches, and officials,” said Mr. Collet. “We hope that the success and exposure of these events will help keep everyone involved, while promoting the sport and attracting new players.”