The cat, as they say, is officially out of the bag.
With just 10 days to go before qualifying matches begin for the 2021 World Baseball Classic, French baseball’s governing body, the Fédération Française de Baseball & Softball (FFBS), decided today to finally go public with its team list.
So without further ado… voilà: Les Bleus!
Bruce Bochy, the very first name on the list — and the biggest as far as notoriety and career credentials are concerned — is also the only one the FFBS had previously divulged. News that the former San Francisco Giants skipper would guide Team France through the WBC qualifiers, beginning March 13 in Tucson, Arizona, first broke last December.
Earlier this week, Le Baseblog readers also learned that former Tampa Bay Rays prospect Ariel Soriano made the team, along with four players who will be suiting up this season for the Montpellier Barracudas: Mael Zan, and pitchers Owen Ozanich, James Murrey and Ismael Pontiac, a college student in Arizona.
What wasn’t known, until now, were the names of the other 23 players chosen for Team France, or the fact that Les Bleus will be benefiting from the services of two bona fide major leaguers: 27-year-old Alen Hanson of the Seattle Mariners and Brett Bochy (the coach’s son) of the San Francisco Giants.
There are also a number of players who, like Soriano, have past or current minor-league experience in the United States. Among them are Ernesto Martínez, a Milwaukee Brewers prospect; Jason Alexander, who plays Triple-A ball for a Los Angeles Angels affiliate, and Donato Auguste, a Chicago Cubs prospect.
Fans of France’s top-division D1 league will also recognize names like Yoimer Camacho, a Venezuelan-born pitcher who dominated last season with the champion Rouen Huskies, Félix Brown and Alexander Perdomo of the runner-up Sénart Templiers, and hot hitters Ivan Acuña and Jacques Boucheron of the Savigny Lions, among others.
Team France plays its first game on Friday, March 13 against Germany at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time (3:30 a.m. Saturday morning in France). If they win, they’ll play South Africa the following day at the same time. Otherwise their next game will be Sunday against a yet-to-be-determined team.
To qualify for the 2021 WBC, Les Bleus will have to finish first or second in the their pool, which also features the national teams of Pakistan, Nicaragua and Brazil. Doing so would be a historic first for France.
Win or lose, though, for the players, the experience of performing on such a big stage — and for such an accomplished manager — is a special opportunity in and of itself.
“It’s huge,” pitcher Owen Ozanich told Le Baseblog shortly before heading off to Arizona. “You’re under the media microscope for a few weeks. It’s kind of your 15 minutes of fame so to speak… and there’s a great opportunity this time around. Our roster looks extremely talented, so we feel like we have a very good chance to do some damage and to qualify.”