L’amitié qui unit Daryl Lee et les Huskies de Rouen

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{BYU Professor Left Lasting Mark on French Baseball Club}\nBy Daniel Whitehead – 21 Oct 2008\n \n\n\n\nIt all began with a desire to serve a people who would rarely listen to him.\n\nAs a missionary for the LDS Church in the mid-1980s, Daryl Lee ({en photo lorsqu’il jouait à Rouen}), now an 11-year French professor at BYU, found a way to both serve the people of France and utilize his talents as an accomplished baseball player. This unique combination would eventually help create one of France’s finest baseball organizations, the Rouen Huskies.\n\nLee was walking down the streets of Rouen, a town in northern France, in early 1987 with his companion when they passed a small sport shop and saw a poster advertising a pickup game of baseball organized by local University of Rouen students and various exchange students.\n\nPiqued with curiosity, the companionship decided to investigate who was involved and why they were gathering to play baseball in a soccer-dominated country.\n\nAmong the group were Pierre Rolland and his sons, Xavier and Oliviet, the initial organizers of the pickup games. The Rollands had hosted an exchange student from Arizona a few years earlier, kept in contact with her family, and Xavier even traveled to Arizona to visit them. While in Arizona, Xavier developed a love for American baseball and brought back equipment with him for a team to play in France.\n\nLee was delighted to see his favorite sport, but soon realized the group could use a little mentoring.\n\n »It was obvious that they weren’t too good at baseball, » Lee said.\n\nLee practiced with the team for a few hours, showing them basics like how to pitch and catch and other fundamentals. The crew invited Lee and his companion back several times and each time, the pair accepted. Eventually, the Elders wondered if it was okay to be playing so much baseball as missionaries. The two approached the mission president to ask for permission, citing an opportunity to spread the word through athletics, and permission was granted.\n\n »We didn’t want to break any rules, » Lee said. « We were allowed to practice with the team, but not play in competitive games. »\n\nMissionary opportunities eventually came knocking. Lee remembers sitting in the Rolland home with the entire team, eating delicious veal scallops with Normandy sauce and giving a few discussions.\n\n »Nothing ever came of the discussions, but baseball allowed us a chance to speak with them at their level, » Lee said. « Most were more interested in smoking and drinking, but we at least were given an opportunity to reach out and teach the gospel through baseball. »\n\nAfter Lee’s missionary service came to a close, he returned home to Tucson, Ariz., and soon met his future wife, Mary. They were engaged a few months upon his return and planned to be married Aug. 25, 1987. It was around that time Lee received a phone call from his friend, Xavier Rolland, back in Rouen.\n\nRolland told Lee the club had received sponsorship and they wanted him to come back and play with them. Lee was hesitant to oblige, telling Rolland he was about to get married and was planning to go to college and move on with his life.\n\n »You can bring your wife with you, » Rolland responded, before responding, « plus, you have your whole life to go to college. »\n\nAfter a long consultation with his fiancee, they agreed to leave for France the day after their wedding and spend the honeymoon with the baseball team at spring training camp in Brittany, France.\n\nMary Lee said it was an « interesting » honeymoon.\n\n »I didn’t speak any French, » she said. « The only words I learned were baseball terms and taunting words the fans would yell at the opponents. »\n\nNot to mention having to follow the French custom of greeting everyone with a kiss on each cheek.\n\n »It was kind of weird to see her kissing all of these guys on our honeymoon, » Lee joked.\n\nThe Lees spent a year in Rouen, with Daryl Lee playing pitcher and catcher while helping the Huskies to an 8-1 record and the regional championship. The team, accustomed to playing on Sundays, made arrangements with opponents to play on Saturday so Lee could observe the Sabbath.\n\nWhen the Lees left Rouen, the team was able to maintain momentum, picking up key French-Canadian players and others to build on a strong first season.\n\nThe Huskies have played particularly well over the recent decade, playing in France’s top Elite Division, winning the Champion de France in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and placing second in the European Championship in 2007.\n\nWith strong community support built from years of successful baseball, the Rouen Huskies now have their own stadium, named Pierre Rolland Stadium, after a main contributor from the beginning. Xavier Rolland is the current club president.\n\nLee traveled to Rouen a week ago to be honored as the team’s first player-manager during a Huskies playoff game with Les Templiers de Senart. The Huskies will clinch their fifth Elite Division title if they win the series.\n\nDespite the honor, Lee is more excited to go visit friends and church members he hasn’t seen for more than 20 years.\n\n »It’s nice to be a small part of a good thing, » he said. « I’m glad the team picked it up and made it better. We were a small group on a mission to make it happen and it worked out. »\n\n