Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Charles LeBlanc: When the Unlikely Becomes Real (History by Mark Griffin)

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Virginia Whitehead
Virginia Whitehead
"Pop culture maven. Unapologetic student. Avid introvert. Gamer. Problem solver. Tv fanatic."

When someone from our region reaches the top of their game, we have something to be proud of. Charles LeBlanc’s story has been the talk of the town for the past two weeks, but have you taken a moment to realize how close his chances of making it into Major League Baseball are? However, Charles has so far maintained a batting average of 333 in 15 games with the Marlins as well as an impressive average strength and attendance of 0.829. (Baseball averaged at .710).

In the United States, there are approximately 16 million baseball players with just under 500,000 making it to the high school baseball program. Of that number, only 9% will end up in a college program and out of that 9%, only 2% will go to NCAA Division 1. So getting drafted by a Major League Baseball team is really an achievement in itself. Add to that that nearly 30% of Major League Baseball players come from countries other than the United States, and that doesn’t leave much room for those who, at age 12, dream of playing in MLB.

Back to Charles. A young man from Laval, his father conveyed his love for the sport. This is the key element here. I love his sport. You can be great at a sport, and have fun playing it, but to get through the woods like Charles did, you have to be passionate about it.

Drafted by the Brewers in round 33 in 2013 from his Georges-Vanier high school, in addition to playing with the Canadian junior team, the Leblanc clan wisely decided it was best for Charles to develop in the university ranks which he did so brilliantly by being drafted in 2016 by the Texans Rangers in the fourth round of the University of Pittsburgh. The course is already full and impressive, but what awaits Charles is the harsh reality of professional baseball.

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From the NCAA Division 1 program to professional baseball at A-level, sometimes a player feels like they’re not going in the right direction. The facilities aren’t impressive and the coaches are dwindling all the time “tying you up” to the field and showing you deserve your place, game after game. You have become a job! Hunger paycheck with endless bus trips, while maintaining a high level of gameplay, I tell you, is not always rosy. Pizza, eat a lot of them!

From 2016 to 2018, Charles went from a weak A to an A and then to a strong A. Over 263 games, 1083 at bat to finally reach level AA. Once at this level, all hopes are allowed. Charles is coping very well and at the age of 23, he feels that the dream is within his reach. Like everyone else, the pandemic is affecting Charles as the 2020 season has been cancelled. To stand out, you have to do things differently, and Charles has brought in famous batting coach Doug Lata. Charles never stopped training, even in the cage that Papa Paul built at Laval Headquarters. Charles begins the 2021 season at AAA level in the Rangers organization, one step away from Major League Baseball. Although stagnant towards the end of the season, his .455 average power speaks volumes about his potential.

During the winter, Major League Baseball holds its Professional Players draft, which allows players who have spent more than three years with the same organization to be drafted by another team. A project that prevents teams from keeping a good player forever in the minor ranks.

The Marlins clearly saw something that the Rangers couldn’t. There is always a disappointing side to changing organizations, especially the one where I wore my first professional uniform. However, you have to see the other side of the coin, that the team gives you the opportunity to pursue your dream. A few new sessions with Doug Latta to prepare Charles well with his new team. A great opportunity for him to make a good impression right from the start. Something he did brilliantly.

The rest is pure happiness. On July 30, 2022, Charles LeBlanc had his first Major League Baseball success and to add to this already great story, on July 31, Charles made his first Major League Baseball game.

When you’re young, you want to do AA. Then, the regional team, and if you’re too good, you end up with the Quebec team. Then comes Midget AAA, ABC, the Canadian junior team and the national team. These are all great steps. The important thing for each player is to reach the limits of their own abilities. And those who succeed in recruiting will go through another and another and another until they wait for Major League Baseball. Very few did it and especially for the players back home, very few central players did.

Now, Charles Le Blanc is going through his greatest moments, but also his greatest challenges. It is true that after two weeks Charles got his first salary and made more profits in two weeks than all of his career years combined. However, the task now is to stay with the Marlins. You’ll tell me that with an average of 333, he shouldn’t worry and you’re probably right. But despite his exceptional performance, a few regular members returned from the injured list and resumed their positions. So Charles’s playing time went down. It’s hard to maintain your rhythm when you play fewer times. The opposing teams have also studied Charles’ momentum and technique and will throw less attractive shots at him while abusing a potential flaw in his momentum.

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So nothing is certain for Laval residents, but what an incredible journey so far. Just like Abraham Torow. Toru’s story proves how the real challenge is to survive in Major League Baseball and adapt game after game to play against the best in the world.

All we can do is continue to encourage Charles and Abraham on their journey so that they in turn can motivate other young people to pursue their dreams. But as Charles’ path shows so well, you can’t slow down, or think that once you get to the top, it will be easier. It’s just the opposite, you have to be creative and find other ways to improve. As Derek Jeter said so well: There may be players who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse because you are not the most serious worker.

Charles and the Marlins will be in Los Angeles against the Dodgers starting Friday night.

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