Denis Boucher

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Denis Boucher

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Biographical Information[edit]

"I always tell people it's good it was a day game, because if it had happened at night, it would have been too much waiting and anticipating... It was a good thing I was well prepared for that game. I'd been up with the team for a full week before that, and I was prepared to pitch. I didn't let emotions, fans, everybody yelling get the best of me. I just never let myself look up and be in awe of this giant, packed stadium. I've watched it on tape a few times since then. Still get chills." - Denis Boucher, to Jonah Keri in Up, Up & Away about his Expos debut

Denis Boucher pitched for Team Canada in the 1987 Pan American Games. He was signed by scout Bob Prentice for the Toronto Blue Jays as an international free agent in August 1987, just before it became mandatory for Canadians to go through the amateur draft. He was a highly touted prospect at the time, and there were howls of protest in Quebec that the hometown Montréal Expos had let him get away to their Canadian rivals. He made his debut for the Blue Jays at the start of the 1991 season, was traded to the Cleveland Indians a short time later, and then drafted by the newly-minted Colorado Rockies in the 1993 expansion draft. He struggled at each of his major league stops, and never actually pitched for the Rockies, as he was traded to the San Diego Padres in return for Jay Gainer at the end of spring training. He spent the first half of 1993 with the AAA Las Vegas Stars, where he was 4-7, 6.43, then was acquired by the Expos in a minor league deal. Assigned to the AAA Ottawa Lynx, he was dominant, going 6-0, 2.72 in 11 games.

At the end of the 1993 season, he became the first Montreal-born hurler to take the bump for the Expos and was a feel-good story for the club, with a 3-1 record and 1.91 ERA in 5 starts (28 1/3 innings) over the final month. Each of his starts at Stade Olympique drew big crowds. He was not as good with the juggernaut 1994 squad, putting a wrap on his big league time, as he made only 2 starts in 10 appearances before being sent back to Ottawa. He pitched well there, going 7-6, 3.71, but the 1994 strike ended any hope of his making it back to the Show and by 1995, with the Expos in fire sale mode, he had become an afterthought. That year, the Expos had twisted his arm to force him to join the Expos' replacement players as they wanted a recognizable name on the team in case the strike was not resolved before the start of the 1995 season. His choice was to accept the offer or find himself without a job. Of course the replacement players were never used, and while Boucher was among those who were given an opportunity in the minors, he never was considered for a major league job again as he struggled in AAA that year and in 1996. He retired after a final season in the independent leagues, with the Adirondack Lumberjacks, in 1997. In 35 appearances in four seasons, Denis's numbers were a far cry from his magical month in 1993 (6-11, 5.42 ERA, 146 innings).

Boucher was pitching coach for Canada in the 2004 Olympics, 2006 WBC, 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament, 2008 Olympics, 2009 WBC, 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament, 2011 Baseball World Cup, 2011 Pan American Games, 2013 WBC Qualifiers, 2013 WBC, 2015 Pan American Games and 2015 Premier 12. Canada won Gold in the 2011 and 2015 Pan Ams, the first non-Cuban nation to win multiple Golds in the Pan American Games. He served as a part-time scout for the Expos and then for the Washington Nationals during that period. In 2010, he was hired by the New York Yankees as a scout covering Quebec and eastern Canada while also coaching youth baseball around Montreal.

In 2011, Boucher was inducted (along with goalie Patrick Roy, among others) into the Québec Sports Hall of Fame. He grew up in Lachine, QC when it was a stand-alone city, before its amalgamation into Montreal. In June 2021, he was recruited by former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, plotting a return to the top job in the upcoming municipal elections, to run as a candidate for Lachine's borough council. In 2023, he was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for his pioneering role as a professional baseball player from Quebec and for his contributions to various Canadian national teams as both a player and a coach.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Bill Young: "Three Canadians in Expos' Starting Lineup; September 6, 1993: Montreal Expos 4, Colorado Rockies 3 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 90-92. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6

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