Its a great news for the Baseball in France. Bruce Bochy is back to coach the french national team during the qualifier for the World Baseball Classic. During an event we had the great honor to discuss with the living legend. We talked about « Les Bleus », his ambition and his past in the MLB.
The Strike Out : With a CV like yours, you must have received several offers from MLB franchises.What tempted you to take over the reins of the French National Team after retiring from your position as the San Francisco Giants’ manager??
Bruce Bochy : Well I was born in France, I always had a connexion to this country. Unfortunately, I don’t have memories, I left before I was two.
I was impressed to learn about the passion for Baseball in France and the work being done to grow the game when I met with President Seminet (in 2019 in New York). It gave me an opportunity to do what I like and give back to baseball, be an ambassador for the sport.
What are your first impressions about the French national team, and French baseball as a whole?
The team that we had in 2020 was very exciting, lots of talent and motivation, a great bunch of players. I’ve seen good coaches and good players, I’ve also been impressed with what I saw in Montigny (the Federation organized clinics with 120 kids), that’s how you grow the game. It’s such a great sport, it deserves more visibility and recognition in France.
The French national team has been through a quite difficult spell in terms of results in international competitions: have you and the coaching staff already identified some of the strengths and weaknesses of the team?
Pitching is key and we’ll unfortunately be missing some of our best (like the Alexander brothers both playing MLB right now), we’ll see what our pitching staff can provide and how we need to adapt. We should be strong being the plate and have a great defense, we have a mix of experienced players and young talents.
Somehow, could this be one of the most difficult (and equally exciting) challenges of your career as a manager?
It’s hard to say, there is the unknow factor. In MLB you have the analytics, you know what you’re facing. Here you don’t know all the teams, you don’t have advanced information on some of the players, it’s different, a new experience.
What are your objectives for “Les Bleus” in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, where France will be facing very tough opponents? How do you rate you team’s chances to qualify?
It’s though to say when you don’t know what the other teams are bringing. I think it’ll be close but I like our chances, we have a good bunch of players that are very determined and that’s very important to succeed.
As the head of the French National Team, do you project yourself as an actor of French baseball on a daily basis, or rather as an on-field Manager whose focus is on selecting, coaching and leading the national team during competitions?
I’m still working for the Giants and living in the US so can’t be involved as much as I would like to. I’m helping the way I can, both on the sporting level and on promotional activities.
There has been a lot of talk about your sons being eligible to join the French team. Do you see them being also involved in French baseball?
My son will unfortunately not be there to play this September but was there in March 2020. He’s sorry he can’t make it, he was eager to compete for the French team.
About your career in the Major Leagues, Before your long career as a manager, you played in the Big Leagues for 9 seasons. Is there one player in that era who really impressed you?
Johnny Bench, who also Is a catcher, was the one I admired and was looking up to.
Does it feel special to be THAT guy, the only player in history to have ever hit a walk-off Home Run against Nolan Ryan?
I didn’t know until later on. We were teammates before, we were friends and he was a though opponent. My dad was here, it’s just a good memory.
In these 25 seasons as an MLB Manager, are there standout players who have particularly impressed you, for their hard-working mentality, their attitude or simply their raw talent?
I was fortunate to see a lot of great players, like Randy Johnson, Rickey Henderson, Trevor Hoffman, Tonny Gwynn or Barry Bonds.
Which player would you say has made the most progress under your management?
Brandon Crawford. Always gifted defensively but became a really good clutch hitter.
What are your best and worst memories in MLB ?
Best: winning the World Series + handing the ball to my son at a major league game (first time in history)
Worst: losing to the NYY in the 1998 World Series
How do you feel about the recent sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros? Do you see as an age-old tradition revisited with modern technology, or as a practice that could endanger the credibility of baseball as a sport?
It seems to me it would become unevitable with the evolution of technology but that’s very unfortunate. You can analyse but you should never cheat. The League is working a lot on that to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We would like to finish with two short questions about two of the greatest current baseball players, both headlining rival Californian franchises:
Is Mike Trout the Greatest baseball player of this century so far… and maybe more?
Mike has an incredible talent, he is putting very impressive numbers up. He is one the best to ever play the game.
He has been one of your fiercest rivals: Clayton Kershaw. What is your feeling about the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher?
I don’t like to think about him (laughing). He had so much success against us, he gave me nightmares.
I enjoyed the matchups between him and Bumgarner, that was very exciting and offering a great showing for baseball.
From all of us at The Strike Out and in the name of all French baseball fans, Thanks you for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with the French national team, and Allez les Bleus!
We also thanks François Collet of the FFBS for his kindness and his time !