Ottawa Champions

From BR Bullpen

Ottawa Champions logo.png

Team History[edit]

The Ottawa Champions, known in French as Les Champions d'Ottawa were created in 2015 as part of an expansion of the Canadian-American Association from a bare-bones four teams to a more viable seven. There was a ready ballpark to host them, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park, previously known as Ottawa Stadium, left without a professional tenant since the departure of the Ottawa Rapidz after one season in 2008. The ballpark received a facelift and a new naming deal along with the club.

The preposterously named club hired a manager with plenty of experience in the circuit, as well as in the major leagues, in Hal Lanier. His assistant coaches were Billy Horn as pitching coach, Jared Lemieux as first base coach, and Sébastien Boucher as hitting coach. Boucher was also activated as a player. A couple of players with major league experience, pitchers Wilmer Font and Andrew Werner, were also part of the team that first season.

The presence of Lemieux and Boucher, a local boy, on staff meant that the Champions had at least learned one lesson from the demise of the Rapidz and the earlier Ottawa Lynx: it was important to reach out to the region's French-speaking community, which represents a quarter of the population and a possibly even larger part of the fan base. This continued when Boucher eventually succeeded Lanier as manager, and Phillippe Aumont was hired as a pitcher and pitching coach. Aumont set a number of league records during his tenure, including by pitching a no-hitter, striking out 18 batters in one game, and 145 in one season.

In their second season in the league, the Champions made their name sound true as they went on a remarkable postseason run after finishing fifth with a record just above .500, already a nice result for a second-year team. They disposed of the New Jersey Jackals, owners of the best regular-season record in the league, in the first round, then after losing the first two games of the finals against the Rockland Boulders at home, both of them by one run, they won the final three games on the road to secure the first title by an Ottawa team since the Ottawa Lynx had won the Governors' Cup in the International League in 1995.

However, they were unable to build on this early success, as they never again reached the postseason. By the end of the 2019 season, they had accumulated a large amount of unpaid back rent on their ballpark which forced them to suspend operations. Reduced to five teams, the Can-Am League decided to merge its remaining team with the Frontier League, which also had an odd number of teams, creating a new 14-team circuit that did not include Ottawa.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
2015 46-50 5th Hal Lanier
2016 51-49 5th Hal Lanier League Champs
2017 42-56 5th Hal Lanier
2018 41-60 6th Hal Lanier
2019 41-54 5th Sébastien Boucher