May 4, 2018
CANADIAN CRUSHER: THE SKY IS THE LIMIT FOR FRESHMAN EDOUARD JULIEN
By Greg Ostendorf (Twitter: @greg_ostendorf)
AUBURN, Ala. – Last summer, Edouard Julien sat in a history class at Auburn and didn’t understand anything the professor was saying.
“It’s going to be a long year,” Julien thought to himself.
The freshman player had just moved to Auburn from Quebec City where he and his family spoke only French growing up. The initial language barrier didn’t just affect him in the classroom either. It affected communication with his teammates. He couldn’t take coaching as well because he didn’t always know what they were trying to say.
Fast forward nine months, and Julien leads all freshmen nationally with 46 RBI. He’s tied for third nationally among freshmen with 11 home runs. He can also speak English fluently and now knows what his coaches, teammates and professors are saying.
“I think there’s a big enough adjustment if you’re from the state of Alabama and you come to the SEC,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “For him to excel and do what he’s doing with all these extra adjustments and changes that maybe one of our in-state or local players just don’t have to do – you can’t realize all that he’s adjusting to over these last eight months – and for him to be playing the game this way and thriving, it’s pretty amazing.”
Growing up in Canada, Julien was a three-sport athlete. But it wasn’t baseball, basketball and football like so many kids who grow up in Alabama. It was baseball, hockey and competitive skiing. That’s because there are about nine months of winter in Quebec, and there were times where they would get four meters of snow – the equivalent of 13 feet.
At one point, when he was 15 years old, Julien was ranked top 10 in Canada for skiing.
But baseball was Julien’s passion. He played on Canada’s Junior National Team, which played games all over the world, including a game against the Toronto Blue Jays split squad in March 2017 during spring training.
It was while playing for that team that Thompson first discovered the middle infielder. Thompson got to know Greg Hamilton, the director of the Junior National Team, when he recruited Jacob Robson to Mississippi State in 2013. Robson went on to play four years for the Bulldogs and was drafted in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft.
“I was talking to Greg and he was like, ‘If you like Jacob Robson, I’ve really got a guy for you,’” Thompson said. “And he was talking about Ed.”
So Thompson sent former assistant coach Brad Bohannon to Canada to see Julien play. Bohannon returned and said, ‘This guy can help us.’ They saw that he had great bat speed, a powerful swing and just a natural feel to hit. The rest was history.
Now Julien is hitting clean-up in the batting order and has the most home runs by an Auburn freshman since Hunter Morris in 2008 (11).
“I knew I could play a little bit here,” Julien said. “I’d faced better pitching, and in my head, I knew I could play here.
“But after the fall, I didn’t think I was going to play. I didn’t have a good fall, and I thought I’d maybe play 10 or 20 games and be lucky if I played 30. I would’ve been happy with that. But I would’ve never thought I’d be leading the NCAA in RBI or hitting 11 bombs right now. I never thought about that. I just wanted to be here and help the team, be a team guy.”
There are still challenges that come with moving to a different country, learning a new language and assimilating to the culture of a new place.
For example, Julien’s parents – who have been in town for the past couple weeks and plan to watch their son this weekend for the Vanderbilt series – speak little to no English. His dad speaks only French, so it’s nearly impossible to mingle with other parents and fans. Though he did have a conversation with Tanner Burns’ dad using Google Translate on their phones.
But there have also been opportunities for Julien, things he’s gotten to do that he might not have ever done had he not come to Auburn. For starters, there are a lot more chicken restaurants in Auburn than there were back home in Quebec. He also attended his first SEC football game, which is quite a bit different than anything in Canada.
“If you go back home to a university, we’re going to have a football stadium that 10,000 people can go to and not even 10,000,” Julien said. “And then I come here and there are big facilities like (Jordan-Hare Stadium) that I’ve never seen. Even the CFL doesn’t have that kind of stadium.
“I go to basketball, it’s huge. Everywhere I go, it’s going to be big. And the fan support, all that stuff is big. You can walk anywhere, and they’re going to know you.”
The fans do know Julien at this point in the season, but they mostly refer to him as the “Canadian kid.” And some still don’t get his name right.
“Usually they call me Eduardo,” Julien said. “They think I’m Spanish.”
The biggest opportunity, though, has come on the field for Julien, and as impressive as his freshman campaign has been this season, the coaching staff believes he’s just scratching the surface both as a hitter and defensively as a second baseman where he’s stuck playing behind senior Luke Jarvis.
“I think definitely his bat is carrying him at this point,” Thompson said. “But he’s working hard every day trying to play second base, grow as a defender, and I think moving past this year, he’s got a chance to be an everyday position player.
“He’s one of the foundational pieces of our program the next couple years moving forward.”
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @greg_ostendorf