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The Rouen Baseball 76 is a French professional baseball team. Founded in 1986, the team competes in the top league in France. The Huskies home stadium is Terrain Pierre Rolland, located in the capital city of Normandy, Rouen. Rouen has won 10 of the last 11 French Championships, establishing itself as the best French baseball team. In the 2012 European Top 50 Ranking, Rouen was listed as the 4th best team in Europe. The Huskies won their tenth French title in 2013, trailing only Paris for the most titled team in French history.
- Champion of France: 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
- Winner of Challenge of France: 2002, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
- Finalist of the Challenge of France: 2003, 2005.
- Finalist in the Euro Cup (group A): 2007, 2012
- Winner of the Euro Cup (group B): 2004, 2006.
- European Final 4: 2012
The club was founded by Pierre Yves Rolland, Xavier Rolland, Marcel Brihiez and Charles Michel Do Marcolino in March 1986.
Xavier Rolland has served as president of the club since its inception, except for a one-year period in the 1990s when he was studying journalism in Paris. During that time, brother Pierre Yves Rolland assumed the presidency, assisted by Arnauld Lastel. Xavier's return to the team charted a new course for a team that had begun to suffer from sponsorship issues, financial problems and a lack of on-field success.
François Colombier, who joined the staff as vice-president in the mid-1990s would also be a name associated with Rouen baseball success in the ensuing years.
The Huskies first game was played versus the neighboring town Bois-Guillaume. Initially, all home games were played on Lacroix Island in the middle of the famous Seine River which splits the city of Rouen. In 1987, the Huskies moved to new and improved facilities in the St Exupéry area. It is here that the club remains to this day. In early 1987, the first home game against Caen only drew 700 fans, but its live broadcast on regional news channel France 3 Normandy made it the first baseball game ever televised in France. Terrain Pierre-Rolland was upgraded following the 2012 season and now features 300 individual seats, a pressbox and concession stand. The field dimensions are 325 feet down the lines and 390 feet to center field with a field turf infield and natural grass outfield.
The Huskies chose uniforms which looked similar to those of a legendary American League team, the New York Yankees. Still today, their home uniform consists of white pants and top with blue pinstripes.
Early standout players included Marc Bourguignon, Herve Dez, François Riembault and Laurent Destrumelle. President Xavier Rolland traveled to Quebec, Canada in 1990 and 1991 in search of more players. Those trips turned up players like Pascal Raymond and young 22 year old pitcher named Robin Roy. Roy would become one of the most successful pitchers in Rouen history before accepting the role of head coach of the club. Rolland also discovered François Rochette of Charlesbourg and Sylvain Paulhus, who would later serve as a bullpen catcher for the Montreal Expos.
In 1992, Serge Kaouane, Dany Medley and Arnaud Fau join Roy as standout performers. Arnaud would later sign a professional contract in Japan and would return to France as a coach many years later.
In 1998, Canadian Dominic Therrien arrived from the Eagles of Trois-Riviéres. Before playing in Rouen, Therrien had made it as high as AA win the Atlanta Braves organisation. He enjoyed two unforgettable seasons with the Huskies. Today, he is an attorney in Canada.
Pitchers Robin Roy and Keino Perez rank first and second for career wins with the club. Roy, originally from Quebec, arrived in Rouen in 1991 and continued to play until 2010 before becoming the team's manager in 2011. Perez, from Venezuela, has been a key starting pitcher for Rouen since 2005. In 2012 he was named manager, replacing Roy, while still pitching for the Huskies.
Outfielder Kenji Hagiwara attended Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona before returning to Rouen. He has won nine French championships along with infielder Luc Piquet and long-time catcher and captain Boris Marche.
Rouen outfielder Joris Bert became the first French player drafted by an MLB team (the Los Angeles Dodgers) in 2007. Bert, a speedy outfielder with good power, was released by Los Angeles in 2009, but not before paving the way for other French players to make their mark outside of France.
Shortstop Maxime Lefevre followed in Hagiwara's footsteps, also attending Cochise Junior College in 2011 and 2012. He has been Rouen's and the National team's starting shortstop since 2010.
In 2011 Owen Ozanich, the first and only French-born player to play NCAA Division 1 baseball, joined Rouen where he has played ever since. In the 2011-12 and 2012-13 off-seasons Ozanich played in Australia in the SABL and also was called up to the ABL's Adelaide Bite in January 2012. In September 2012 he started France's second game in the 2012 World Baseball Classic Qaulifier against South Africa throwing three no hit innings.
2012 also marked the year where Robin Roy's son Alexandre was signed by the Seattle Mariners at age 16. Roy spent much of the year in Arizona in the club's minor league complex.
Success of the 2000s
In 2001, the team is entrusted to manager Sylvain Virey. Many new faces join veterans Robin Roy and Yann Monnet. The team starts well, but is devastated when Québécois Joce Blais leaves Rouen to sign a pro contract with the Quebec Capitales in the middle of the season. His replacement, American Andy Justice, immediately provides the spark the club needed. The club dominates Division 2. Robin Roy pitches Rouen past Cherbourg on his way to being named MVP. The Huskies are now once again promoted to Division 1. In the fall, "baby baseball" and mixed softball are promotions rolled out to generate interest in the game.
In 2002, The Huskies returned to glory under the direction of new head coach Patrice Plante. Rouen recorded a 29-1 record during the French regular season. The club also took home the inaugural Challenge of France with a victory over Paris Université Club. This victory qualified the club for the Euro Cup which would take place in Barcelona the following June. Rouen lost the French Championship to rival Savigny, however.
Following the conclusion of the 2002 season, Rouen GM Xavier Rolland replaced Plante with a new head coach, Christian Chénard, a native of Quebec, who arrived in Rouen in March 2003. That summer, once again competing in the Challenge of France, the Huskies recorded two easy victories against Guerche (17-1) and Cherbourg (15-1). The club then proceeded to beat Montpellier 5-0 before finally losing to Savigny 4-2. President Rolland recruited Andre Tremblay to bolster the team pitching staff in preparation for its first Euro Cup, to be held in Barcelona, but the Huskies finished sixth in the tournament. the Huskies finish 6th in the tournament. Back in France, a doubleheader split against Montpellier ensures a second consecutive first place regular season finish. The Huskies beat Paris in the semi-finals before facing rival Savigny in championship series. Rouen finally beats Savigny and claims its first title. The Huskies are now the top team in France.
In 2004, the club won the European B Cup (a lesser competition compared to the A Cup), but failed to defend its title as French champions.
In 2005, the Huskies were led by pitcher Keino Perez of Venezuela and they claimed their second French championship while also finishing second in the Challenge de France.
In 2006, Huskies won a second Euro B Cup while also preserving their title of champion of France. The team finished 27-5 in the regular season before beating Savigny and Toulouse to claim the championship. The French title along with the successful Euro B Cup result will allow Rouen to participate in the 2007 Euro A Cup.
On June 16, 2007 the Huskies reached the championship game of the Euro A Cup against the Dutch squad Kinhiem. In a hard fought game, the Huskies lose 3-1 in what remains the furthest a French team has ever gone in Europe. Rouen is the first non-Italian/non-Dutch team since 1976 to reach the tournament final. Rouen came back to France with great confidence, won the Challeng de France and finished the regular season in first place with a 20-4 record. They ousted Montpellier and Senart to become the undisputed top club in France and one of the top 10 clubs in Europe. Their pitching staff, led once again by Roy and Perez, dominated French batters.
A Huskies Dynasty
The 2008 season ends with a 22-6 second place regular season finish for Rouen. The 2009 season saw the Huskies finish the regular season 25-3 and in first place. Catcher and now captain Boris Marche, the youngest ever French National Team player, led the team to another French championship, this time over rival Savigny. In the 2010 season, the final one on the mound for Robin Roy, ended with a 17-7 regular season record and a seventh championship for the Huskies. Roy finished his career as probably the best pitcher in French history. Canadian infielder Aaron Hornostaj and newly acquired French pitcher Anthony Piquet also stepped up with great seasons.
In 2011, Roy retired as a player and took over as head coach of the Huskies, replacing Francois Colombier. After a relatively rough start to the season and a disappointing Euro Cup finish, American slugger Rickey Thomas and French-American pitcher Owen Ozanich helped Rouen to a sweep through the Challenge de France, going 5-0, with Jordan Crystal taking home MVP honors, Bert best hitter and Ozanich best pitcher. Rouen finished third in the regular season with a 19-9 record before finding its groove in the playoffs, ousting Toulouse, Savigny and Montpellier. Rouen was down two-games to none to Montpellier in the finals before winning three straight. President Xavier Rolland called this championship "one of the sweetest."
Rouen as a European Power
Roy's son Alexandre, who pitched sparingly for the squad in 2011, signed with the Seattle Mariners in February 2012. Alexandre became the youngest French player and the first French pitcher to sign professionally. Captain Boris Marche and longtime infielder Luc Piquet traveled to Southern Japan in March to take part in spring training with a professional team. Infielder Maxime Lefevre returned home from Cochise College in Arizona and added solid defense and speed to the lineup. Quentin Becquey and Oscar Combes rejoined the Huskies and made significant contributions to a squad which qualified for its first ever European Final 4 in Nettuno, Italy by finishing 4-1 in the Rotterdam Pool A Euro Cup.
The 2012 season was very successful for Rouen. Keino Perez took over as player-manager, replacing Roy at the helm while still contributing on the field as a starting pitcher and managing the team to a 41-6 overall record. With the help of imports Chris Mezger, Ethan Paquette, Mat Smith, along with the usual solid play from their French players, Rouen won the 2012 Challenge de France and 2012 French Championship. Owen Ozanich posted the lowest ERA in the regular season, Mezger finished first in wins and second in strikeouts while Paquette finished first in all the offensive triple crown categories, edging out teammate Luis Aponte for the batting title. Mezger was named MVP of the Challenge de France and best pitcher of the finals, while Paquette was named best hitter and MVP of the finals as Rouen topped Senart three games to one to claim its ninth French title.
In September 2012, the French National Team participated in the European Championships in Holland as well as in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Jupiter, Florida. Rouen players Joris Bert, Maxime Lefevre, Boris Marche, Luc Piquet, Anthony Piquet and Owen Ozanich were on the rosters for both the European Championships and the World Baseball Classic, Keino Perez joined the six in Florida for the WBC qualifier.
Departing prior to the start of the season were pitchers Chris Mezger and Anthony Piquet, along with 2012 triple crown winner, infielder Ethan Paquette. The 2013 Huskies turned to Venezuelan pitcher Jose Rodriguez and French-American Owen Ozanich to anchor the pitching staff along with longtime pitcher Keino Perez and newcomer Yoann Vaugelade (2013 Finals MVP). Ozanich took home his second consecutive ERA title, also finishing 10-0 for the second consecutive season. Rodriguez shined most in the playoffs when the team needed him most, and Perez was named best pitcher in the Challenge de France. Rodriguez pitched as high as AAA while Perez pitched in A ball before moving to Europe. Perez stands atop the all-time wins list in France with 98 victories and counting for the Huskies. New stadium improvements were completed and terrain Pierre Rolland now features lighting and 300 individual seats along with a snack bar for Huskies fans. Another first place finish (24-4 record) and a sweep through the Challenge de France (4-0 record) highlighted the regular season. The team finished a disappointing 1-4 in the European Cup although many key players were missing from the lineup. The offense was led by familiar names Boris Marche (2013 Challenge de France MVP), Luc Piquet, Maxime Lefevre, Mathew Smith, Oscar Combes, Kenji Hagiwara, David Gauthier, Joris Bert, Quentin Becquey and Luis Aponte. The Huskies welcomed outfielders Gaspard Fessy and Christophe Goniot along with American utility player Brian Ramirez to the squad. Ramirez excelled in finals, taking home the award given to the best hitter. Rouen and Senart faced off in a rematch of the 2012 D1 finals, with Rouen claiming the series 3 games to 2 to capture their 10th title. Rouen's season concluded in late September when they hosted Moscow and Antwerp in the 2014 European A Cup qualifier. Rouen won both games on their home field to remain in the 2014 A Cup. They welcomed back infielder Maxime Lefevre who spent the majority of the season in North America and won the CAN-AM title after a successful rookie season with the Quebec Capitales.
The 2013 version of the Huskies took home the Challenge de France and finished first in France during the regular season with a 24-4 record. They won their 10th French Championship and qualified themselves for the 2014 European A Cup.
24-4 regular season, 4-0 Challenge de France, 1-4 European Cup, Playoffs 6-3, 2014 Qualifier 2-0, 37-11 overall
- Official Club Site (French)