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June 7, 2007 at 6:24 PM

Vive le Quebec!

That’s French, in case you were wondering. I’m not working our draft coverage today, but thought I’d weigh in on what some of you perceive to be Phillippe Aumont’s reluctance to join the Mariners. I cannot believe that would be the case, at least not yet. I wouldn’t base anything off a brief television clip. Here’s the deal: many of you already know that I grew up in Quebec, in the city of Laval, just outside Montreal. Lived there until age 29. I am anglophone (English) while Aumont is a francophone (French). The French are the majority in Quebec by a pretty large margin. Leave the Montreal area and French tends to be the majority by some 95 per cent. That said, many of us do speak both languages. I don’t know how billingual Aumonjt is yet, but it can be very intimidating doing interviews in languages that aren’t your own. I’ve done them in French, which I speak rather well, on the RDS sports television network in Montreal and can tell you I looked real nervous and uptight doing it.
So, let’s not go crazy trying to read anything off a TV clip.
As for Aumont not even playing high school ball, don’t fret about it. High schools in Quebec are different from in the rest of Canada and the U.S. They only go up to Grade 11. After that, students take a junior college program (called CEGEP, a long acronym for a bunch of bureaucratic French words) that lasts anywhere from two to five years (most do it in two or three) and then go to university. Undergraduate programs then take three years to complete instead of four like here in the U.S.
Bottom line? The big-time athletic programs in Quebec tend to be in CEGEP and university, not in high school, which ends by age 16 or 17. Most high schools don’t have the funding for football, or baseball teams. Lots of debate in Canada about spending tax dollars on athletics. So, what happens is that talented athletes wind up playing for city teams, and traveling regional, provincial and national all-star squads. The good baseball players do what Aumont did and wind up going to the U.S. to show off their stuff any way they can. Playing high school ball in Quebec would generally be a waste of time. The best athletic competition is found in city-run leagues or local all-star teams.
Quebec is a hockey province first, a football province second (it’s actually a huge football province, bigger than you might think, producing many NCAA and professional players). Baseball is not nearly as big. I can guarantee you, Aumont being drafted by Seattle is huge news there right now. I’ve already gotten an email from the baseball correspondent for Canadian Press looking for quotes to use in a nation-wide story being done on him. The folks in Quebec tend to be very proud of their “own” athletes scoring big on an international scale. Especially the French-speaking ones. I have little doubt that Aumont is excited about what’s happening and overwhelmed by the day’s events.
So, don’t waste time worrying about that stuff. Aumont had projected into the top–10 on several draft lists, so the M’s were fortunate to get him. Lots of plus-stuff, including an uncanny feel for the sinker-pitch at his age. Looks like a stud. We’ll see what happens, but this was as good a pick as the Mariners could have hoped for given their draft slotting. Lots of upside here.



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