[ PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL ]
baseball in France
The former ’Bow opted for life
experience when he decided
to play in Toulouse
A friendship that formed when Aaron Pribble was a youngster attending baseball camps run by College of Marin coach Al Endriss has resulted in a foreign exchange opportunity for the former Hawaii player.
Pribble is currently pitching and playing first base for the Toulouse Tigers in France's nine-team professional league.
"Coach Endriss coached the French national team a few years ago," said Pribble, who played for the Rainbows from 1999 to 2002, "Our catcher and captain, Jamel Boutagra, played for Endriss and called him to say Toulouse needed a foreign player. Coach Endriss got in touch with me kind of out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to play in France. The rest is history."
Pribble pitched two seasons for independent teams after graduating from UH. He played for the Jackson (Miss.) Senators of the Central League last year but was traded to the Windy City (Crestwood, Ill.) ThunderBolts of the Frontier League on March 8.
When Pribble informed Windy City he was going to play in France, the ThunderBolts released him on April 1.
Pribble does not speak French, but he does speak Spanish, and that is making the learning curve much easier. Spanish is sometimes spoken in Toulouse, which located in the Southwest part of France, some 70 miles from the Spanish border. And most of his teammates speak some English.
"I am enjoying it very much, from both a life experience and a baseball perspective. I'm hitting and playing first base --which I really love doing again -- when I don't pitch. That has been a lot of fun for me," said Pribble, who gets a salary, an apartment and food.
His "work" schedule is definitely different from what pro players deal with in America.
"We only play once a week, a doubleheader on Sundays, and we practice for a few hours on some of the other days. It really depends here," Pribble said. "So there is a lot of time to take in the culture, get to know the city, etc.
"The real perk is getting paid to live in France for the summer. And, in typical European fashion, I get a 10-day paid vacation in the middle of August. I can either go home or stay here and travel. They will pay for my plane ticket home if I want, but I think I'll stay and travel. I have some friends in Spain and Paris, so it will hopefully work out OK."
Pribble also is helping coach youth players and is happy to have that opportunity.
He said the move to forgo independent ball in the United States this season is definitely a life-experience decision rather than a career move.
"With where I'm at with the game, I had to jump at the chance," Pribble said. "There are actually a couple guys in the majors right now who played in France, the closer for the Rangers and a guy who was up for a short time with the Expos. So you don't have to give up on the game to play over here by any means.
"If I'm the first Hawaii guy to play in France, I'll try my best to spread some aloha."
Several former Rainbows and local standouts have played in Italy. The ex-UH players include catcher and current UH assistant Keith Komeiji (a Rainbow in 1982), infielder Thad Reece (1978-81), right-hander Rich Olsen (1976-78), left-hander Joel Lono (1980-81, 83-84), right-hander Matt Apana (1991-93) and Curt Watanabe (1976-79). Catcher Garrett Nago (Arizona State) also played in Italy.
Right-hander Frank Mutz (1984-85) and outfielder Mark Soma (1988) played in The Netherlands.