by Brendan Sample
When thinking of baseball, it’s hard not to think of America. After all, it’s been around in this country for well over a century and is still regarded by many people as America’s pastime. It doesn’t mean, however, that our country is the only one that gets to enjoy it, as plenty of nations around the world have teams of all different capacities that get to play the game on a regular basis.
This notion extends to France, which is the home of the Savigny Lions, a youth baseball team that’s currently planning to visit Chestnut Hill later this month. While here, they’re set to play five games against the Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club (CHYSC) right after the club’s opening day on April 16.
While this kind of connection may seem random and out of the blue, the Lions have a strong connection to Chestnut Hill in the form of their head coach, James Ounsworth.
A longtime resident of Chestnut Hill, Ounsworth initially got involved with the Sports Club when he began coaching baseball and soccer camps. Outside of the Club, he worked a number of other jobs, which included time as a lawyer. After leaving his last company, a venture capital firm called Safeguard Scientifics, however, he decided that he would travel to France and spend some time there.
“France just has such great cuisine, history and art,” said Ounsworth. “It’s really the center of Europe and I also appreciate how organized the French are, having previously been in the military.”
Since he already had experience coaching a baseball team, Ounsworth wanted to start a new one while he was living in France. He described the process of setting up the Lions as similar to establishing a youth team in America, as a notice is generally put out every year for “youngsters” to sign up.
While the Lions occasionally play tournaments in other countries, America has so far not been one of them, and Ounsworth wanted to capitalize on the chance to have his team come over to the States to learn about another culture.
“I wanted to teach them more about the United States than about baseball,” Ounsworth said. “I plan to take the kids on a tour of the city, we’ve prepared a vocab book of key words as well as some phrases and I’ve also been holding lecture programs about Philadelphia to cover the city’s history, architecture and, of course, the baseball.”
While Ounsworth has been at the forefront of the planning for this visit, he certainly isn’t the only one involved. On the local side, CHYSC Junior Baseball Commissioner and former Chestnut Hill Community Association president Brien Tilley has worked directly with Ounsworth to turn this vision into a reality.
“Jim has some old connections with the Club, so he got in touch with me back in November to lay out his idea,” said Tilley. “I thought it was an awesome opportunity, and when I proposed it to the Club and the parents, they also got really excited about it.”
Just like how Ounsworth wants to enlighten his players to our culture, Tilley hopes to do the same with the Club players and French culture. While there may not be any precedence on how exactly to handle an event like this one, the Club still wants to be able to build on this experience for years to come.
“I’m really hoping that this will be a life experience for everyone involved,” Tilley added. “We want to get the kids together to try and learn some key French phrases and hopefully have everyone share in some cultural experiences.”
Elizabeth Rimington, Ounsworth’s wife who is also directly involved with the Lions, expressed her enthusiasm toward the trip as well.
“This represents a great opportunity to get people exposed to different cultures and to broader their perspectives,” Rimington said. “France and America have a long history together, and we’re really looking to promote that here.”
Because this is such a unique opportunity for everyone involved, Ounsworth is hoping to make the most of it for both groups.
“I really want to have a great sports experience, have the kids learn important lessons about life and get them to appreciate the history of such a great city,” said Ounsworth.
The Club is encouraging all members of the community to come out to watch the games on the tentative dates of April 21-22, 24 (two games) and 26. These dates are subject to change, however, and you can visit the Club’s website, chysc.org to stay up to date on any announcements regarding potential changes.