June 7, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its 2023 induction ceremony on June 17 in St. Marys, Ont.
In the days leading up to the event, I will be profiling each of the inductees. On Monday, I profiled Harden. Today I’m shining the spotlight on Boucher:
Hall of Fame Bio:
Born in Montreal in 1968, Denis Boucher honed his skills with the Junior National Team and at the National Baseball Institute in Vancouver prior to toeing the rubber for Canada at the 1987 Pan Am Games. On August 18 of that same year, he was signed as an amateur free agent by Toronto Blue Jays director of Canadian scouting Bob Prentice.
After parts of four seasons in the minors, the Canadian left-hander made his major league debut for the Blue Jays on April 12, 1991 at SkyDome. He was given the start against the Milwaukee Brewers and the first three hitters he faced were Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Gary Sheffield. Boucher held the Brewers to three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and the Blue Jays eventually won 5-4. He’d make six more starts for the Blue Jays before he was dealt to Cleveland on June 27 as part of a package for knuckleballer Tom Candiotti and outfielder Turner Ward.
On July 20 that season, Boucher picked up his first major league win when he allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings to the California Angels to propel Cleveland to a 4-1 victory. Boucher returned to Cleveland in 1992 but was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the National League Expansion draft after the season. The Rockies traded him to the San Diego Padres in March 1993 and he spent three months in triple-A before he was dealt to his hometown Montreal Expos.
After going 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 appearances (six starts) for the triple-A Ottawa Lynx, Boucher was recalled by the Expos. His highly anticipated first game came on September 6, 1993 in front of more than 40,000 boisterous fans at Olympic Stadium. With Windsor, Ont., native Joe Siddall catching and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker in right field, the contest represented the first time in modern baseball history that three Canucks have been in the starting lineup for the same team. Boucher held the Colorado Rockies to one run in six innings and the Expos prevailed 4-3. With that start, Boucher also became the first Canadian to have played for both the Blue Jays and Expos. In all, the young southpaw would go 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts down the stretch for the Expos.
Boucher returned to make 10 appearances for the Expos in 1994 and would play three additional seasons in the Expos’ organization. In total, he pitched 10 professional seasons and accumulated 87 wins, while posting a 3.99 ERA, in 263 games.
Following his playing career, Boucher joined the national team as a pitching coach in 2003. Among the tournaments he has coached for Canada at are the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, all five World Baseball Classics and the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games when Canada captured gold medals.
He has also developed into a highly respected scout, first with the Washington Nationals from 2004 to 2009 and with the New York Yankees, from 2009 to present.
On a grassroots level, Boucher has also helped develop youth baseball programs in his hometown of Lachine and has served as president of the Lachine Amateur Baseball Association since 2007.
For his efforts, he was elected to the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame the following year. In 2017, a baseball field in Lachine, Que., was renamed in his honour.
Boucher on being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame:
“It’s an incredible honour to be elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I’m very humbled and proud to have my name amongst the best baseball players in the country.”
First MLB Game: April 12, 1991. He started and pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on five hits, to the Milwaukee Brewers at SkyDome. The first three MLB batters he faced were Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Gary Sheffield and he retired them in order. The three combined to go 1-for-9 off him in the contest. Boucher got a no-decision, but the Blue Jays eventually won 5-4 in 11 innings.
First MLB Strikeout: Left fielder Greg Vaughn in the second inning of Boucher’s MLB debut on April 12, 1991.
First MLB Win: July 20, 1991. He started and threw 7 2/3 innings for Cleveland and allowed just one run on five hits to the Angels in Cleveland’s 4-1 victory at Anaheim Stadium. Boucher fanned three batters in the game. Fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont.) started for the Angels and allowed three runs in seven innings but was saddled with the loss.
First MLB win as an Expo: September 11, 1993. In his second start as an Expo in front of 29,353 fans at Olympic Stadium, Boucher limited the Cincinnati Reds to one run on four hits, while striking out four, in five innings, in an Expos’ 4-2 victory.
First MLB Hit: October 3, 1991. He hit a double to left field off Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander John Hope with two outs in the fourth inning at Olympic Stadium. He started and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings for the Expos to pick up the win in the Expos’ 3-1 victory.
Longest MLB Outing: June 9, 1992 vs. the Detroit Tigers. He allowed just three hits in eight scoreless innings for Cleveland at Tiger Stadium. He struck out four to lead Cleveland to a 6-1 win. Boucher outdueled Tigers veteran Frank Tanana. The Canuck lefty permitted two hits in the second inning and then only one in his final six innings that day.
-Boucher started as a pitching coach with the national team in 2003. He continues in that role today. That makes him the longest serving pitching coach in national team history.
-The Montreal Expos began the month of September 1993 with a 74-60 record and 9.5 games out of first place. They proceeded to go 20-8 down the stretch and finish just three games behind the National League pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies. Boucher, who was recalled by the Expos at the beginning of September, posted the best ERA of any Expos starter in September/October that year. He recorded a 1.91 ERA in five starts. The ERAs of the other Expos starters during that stretch: Dennis Martinez (2.79), Ken Hill (5.70), Kirk Rueter (2.84) and Jeff Fassero (3.41).
-The Montreal Expos averaged 20,265 fans per game at Olympic Stadium in 1993. In Boucher’s four starts at Olympic Stadium, the club averaged 36,533 fans.
-Boucher had two major league hits. Both were doubles at Olympic Stadium. The first (see above) came on October 3, 1991. The second was a double to right field off St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Allen Watson in the bottom of the third inning on May 15, 1994. Boucher then scored his only MLB run when Mike Lansing followed up his double with a home run.