It’s hard not to be excited about yesterday’s bombshell announcement that Bruce Bochy, a three-time MLB champion as coach of the San Francisco Giants, has agreed to manage the French men’s national team.
His goal? To help Les Bleus reach — and hopefully succeed in— the next World Baseball Classic, in 2021. Qualifier matches for the international tournament will take place this coming Spring, in Arizona.
Win or lose, Bochy’s arrival is a massive boost for French baseball in general, and one that was sorely needed in wake of the country’s decision not to include the sport in the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris.
But of all the people celebrating the announcement, issued Monday by the FFBS (Fédération Française de Baseball et Softball), none are more excited than the potential team members themselves.
“Obviously, this is huge for French baseball. This brings a lot of positive attention to our sport, and really motivates myself along with the rest of the guys to represent France the best we can,” pitcher Owen Ozanich of the Montpellier Barracudas told Le Baseblog.
The 30-year-old right-hander grew up in the United States — in Burlington, Vermont — but was born in France and has been playing here professionally, and as a member of the French national team, since 2011.
“Having (hopefully) the opportunity to play for a manager like Bruce Bochy and advance out of the qualifying stage is something to continue working hard for,” he added.
Like Ozanich, Bochy was also born in France — in Bussac-Forêt, about 40 kilometers northeast of Bordeaux. He later spent time in Panama’s Canal Zone before moving to the United States, where he eventually broke into MLB as a catcher.
The now 64-year-old played in the big leagues for nearly a decade, starting in 1978 with the Houston Astros. He also spent time with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, a team he later coached starting in 1995.
Bochy is best remembered, however, for his dozen-year run as skipper of the San Francisco Giants, which won the World Series three times under his leadership (2010, 2012 and 2014).
“We’re really proud to announce Bruce Bochy’s arrival for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in 2020,” Didier Seminet, the FFBS president, said in a press release. “Bruce has a special relationship with France, and we’re very honored and excited that he wants to seize this opportunity to help develop French baseball.”