The Year Ahead In French Baseball

The Boucaniers of La Rochelle will host the Challenge de France tournament in May (B. Witte)

It may be the dead of winter still, but the powers that be in baseball seem to have awoken from their holiday slumber all at once. With a flurry of announcements — some official, some from media sources — a number of key details about the 2020 season are suddenly coming into focus.

International rankings

Earlier this week the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) released its new world baseball rankings, with some good news for France.

Unranked until now, the national women’s teamformed for the first time just last year — has officially arrived, as far as the sport’s international governing body is concerned. So how do Les Bleues stack up? The WBSC ranked the French squad 18th out of 20 teams, ahead of Nicaragua and the Czech Republic.

Not bad for a team that came into being less than a year ago (WBSC)

Leading the ranking is Japan, followed by Canada, Chinese Taipei, Venezuela and the United States. Come September, France will join all five of those clubs, plus six others (China, the Philippines, Mexico, the Netherlands, Cuba and Australia) in the WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup in Monterrey, Mexico.

The French national men’s team will also have a chance to compete internationally this year — in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifiers (more about that in a minute) — and they’ll do so ranked 25th in the world (just as they were last year), according to the WBSC.

The world’s top ranked men’s teams are Japan, the United States and South Korea, in that order. The highest ranked European team is the Netherlands (7th), followed by the Czech Republic (16th) and Italy (17th).

World Baseball Classic

Qualifiers for the 2021 World Baseball Classic will take place in Tucson, Arizona in March, and for France, there’s plenty to be excited about, starting with the fact that the team will have a new and VERY accomplished coach: former San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

There’s no word yet on which players will be joining him in the desert sun, but according to media reports, the French team may see its first action on March 12 against Germany.

“Exclusive” information published by Nicaraguan outlet NicaBeis suggests that besides Germany, France will also be grouped with Brazil, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa, and that group play will take place March 12-17.

(Graphic by NicaBeis)

International Club Cups

Europe’s top club teams meet every summer for a pair of tournaments: the Champions Cup and the CEB Cup, both organized by the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB).

As Le Baseblog reported back in November, the two events will take place simultaneously in the first week of June, but in different locations. The Champions Cup will be held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and will feature the reigning French champion Rouen Huskies. The CEB Cup will also feature a French team — the Sénart Templiers, last year’s Challenge de France winners — who will be hosting the event in their stellar stadium just south of Paris.

The Ostrava Arrows will have homefield advantage in the Champions Cup

What wasn’t clear before, with regards to the Champions Cup, is how the specific groupings will be handled. But according the website Dutch Baseball Hangout, that decision has now been made:

The Rouen Huskies will be in Group A, together with Curaçao Neptunus (Netherlands), Fortitudo Bologna (Italy) and Heidenheim Heideköpfe (Germany).

The second pool — Group B — will feature the Bonn Capitals (Germany), L&D Amsterdam Pirates (Netherlands), ASD Nettuno Baseball City (Italy) and the host team, the Czech Republic’s Ostrava Arrows.

France’s Division 1 (D1)

The French baseball and softball federation, the FFBS, has yet to release the 2020 schedule, but play is expected to begin around Easter (the second weekend of April).

What has been announced is that the mid-season Challenge de France tournament, featuring the D1’s top eight clubs, will be hosted by the La Rochelle Boucaniers and take place from May 7-10.

La Rochelle can’t wait to host the Challenge de France (B. Witte)

Le Baseblog has also heard from sources that after a rough first year in France’s top division, the Valenciennes Vipères have been relegated. The D1 is expected, therefore, to have just 11 teams this season.

The other change on the horizon is that the league will be modifying its playoff format to include quarter- and semi-final games. Last season the two championship finalists — the Huskies and Templars — earned berths based solely on their regular-and payoff-phase records.

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