A year-and-a-half after gathering in the Arizona desert for a World Baseball Classic (WBC) qualifier tournament that never was, Les Bleus are back, albeit with more than a few personnel changes.
Unlike the group that prepared for the WBC event only to see it cancelled at the 11th hour (due to the then recently declared COVID-19 pandemic), the current French national men’s team will most certainly get to play a few games, starting Sunday night (8:30 p.m.), when they take on the UK in the 16-team European Baseball Championships in northern Italy.
The squad will next face Team Israel, on Sept. 13 (4 p.m.), followed by an early game the morning after (10:30 a.m.) against the Russian national team. When and where Team France plays after that will depend on the results of those first three games.
So who’ll be suiting up for Les Bleus this time around? French baseball’s governing body, the FFBS, answered just that question Wednesday, when they officially released the 24-man roster. And while there are a number of familiar faces on the list, this particular group also has quite a few first-timers.
Returning players include Felix Brown — el veterano, as he’s known among his teammates — Franco-American pitcher Owen Ozanich, power-hitter Jacques Boucheron of New Caledonia, Sénart star Andy Paz, and pitchers Robyn Clara, Eric Moore and Marc-André Habeck, among others.
Joining them will be a number of younger players, some of whom — including Paolo Brossier, Pierre Doat, Mathis Nayral and Nolan Soliveres of the 2021 Challenge de France champion Montpellier Barracudas — will be making their first appearance with the men’s senior squad.
The Sénart Templiers, 17-1 right now in France’s D1 league, are also well represented on this year’s Team France. In addition to Brown and Paz, the roster includes teammates José Andrés Paula and Tanguy Meurant.
Not surprisingly, the Rouen Huskies — winners of the past five D1 titles — have a strong presence in the national team as well. Big bomber Bastien ‘Balou’ Dagneau got the call-up, as did teammates Louis Brainville, Martin Vissac and pitchers Esteban Prioul and Quentin Moulin.
Joining them is Rouen’s super successful skipper, Keino Perez, who was named manger of the French team after news broke several weeks ago that Bruce Bochy — due to concerns about the ongoing health emergency — wouldn’t be making the trip over from the United States.
Bochy, a former MLB player and manger who famously guided to the San Francisco Giants to three World Series titles in a span of just five years (2010, 2012 and 2014), coached Les Bleus briefly in the days leading up to last year’s ill-fated WBC qualifiers. He has promised to do so again whenever the tournament is rescheduled.
Rounding out the roster for Team France are Nicholas Antoine of the La Rochelle Boucaniers, Gédéon Coste and Léo Jiminian of the Savigny Lions, Luís Delogu, who’s currently playing in Spain, Daniel Patrice of the Montigny Cougars and, last but not last, Franklin De La Rosa of Stade Toulousain.