MONTPELLIER — It started with the announcement, back in October, that they’d be bringing on one of French baseball’s most accomplished pitchers: former Huskies ace Owen Ozanich. But that, it turns out, was just the beginning of what the Montpellier Barrucadas have in store for the 2020 Division 1 (D1) season.
Joining Ozanich on the team’s new and improved pitching staff will be another D1 veteran, James Murrey. Last season, playing for Paris Université Club (PUC), the 32-year-old Chicago native posted a stingy 1.34 ERA, with 92 strikeouts in 75 innings pitched.
Keep in mind that the Barracudas are also expecting to have pitcher Kevin Canelon of Venezuela back. The lefty — a former New York Mets recruit who spent a number of years playing minor-league ball in the United States — had a sensational first season in France last year, going 11-1 and posting a league-best 0.49 ERA with 125 strikeouts.
Those moves alone — combined with the team’s core of young, home-grown talent — looked to put Montpellier in serious contention for its first D1 championship since three-peating back in the mid 1990s. But this past Sunday, the team made yet another big-time personnel announcement, this time on the offensive end.
Helping bolster its already talented lineup of up-and-coming French players — guys like Paolo Brossier, Antoine Villard, Maël Zan, Fabian Kovacs and Nicolas Khoury, among others — will be a pair of experienced recruits from the United States: Andy Cosgrove and Patrick Cromwell.
From rivals to teammates
Cosgrove, a Seattle product, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins after finishing up his college-playing career at North Carolina State University. Last year the 23-year-old catcher played for the Southern Illinois Miners, an indy team in the Frontier League, and earned an All-Star nod for his efforts at and behind the plate.
Cromwell, an infielder from Costa Mesa, California, played university ball for Clemson, in South Carolina, before taking his talents to Australia and then Germany, where he batted .298 last season in the country’s Bundesliga (Division 1).
Interestingly, the two future teammates played against each other during their university days in the hyper-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). In an interview published (in French) on the Barracudas website*, Cosgrove admits that the team’s willingness to also recruit his former rival helped motivate his move to Montpellier.
“I know that Patrick is an easy person to get along with, a hard worker and an incredible player,” Cosgrove told the club.
The Barracudas will be without the services this season of veteran shortstop Larry Infante of Venzuela, who led the team with a .348 batting average in 2019, and his countryman Andrés Martínez, who batted .317 and was Montpellier’s top hits (40) and RBIs (30) man.
But with stronger pitching this year, and the addition of the ACC-tested Cosgrove and Cromwell, the club has to feel good about its chances. After finishing third in the league in 2019 behind the Rouen Huskies and Sénart Templiers, the Barracudas are clearly hungry for more.
“We think we’ll have a very competitive team for 2020,” coach and club secretary Olivier Brossier told Le Baseblog. “We’re hoping with these recruits to win the Challenge de France tournament and the [D1] championship.”
*Click on this link to read the full Barracudas interview (in French) with Cosgrove and Cromwell.