Former MLB and UBC Thunderbirds pitcher Jeff Francis greeted current players during a break in their double-header against the Corban University Warriors on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Saša Lakić photo)

UBC retires jersey of former MLB pitcher Jeff Francis

The former North Delta Blue Jays and UBC Thunderbirds southpaw played 11 years in the majors league

The UBC Thunderbirds have retired the jersey of one of the biggest baseball talents to come out of North Delta.

Jeff Francis’ number 16 is now emblazoned on the blue right field wall of the university’s Tourmaline West Stadium following a ceremony on Saturday afternoon (March 9).

The retired major league pitcher started his career with the North Delta Baseball Association, playing for the Blue Jays in the BC Premier Baseball League and winning both the B.C. and Canadian championships in each of his three years with the team. In 1999, he was named the National Championships pitcher of the tournament, Baseball BC’s player of the year and played for the Canadian Junior National Team.

Francis, who now lives in London, Ont., told the Reporter that growing up and playing baseball in the community had a big influence on his later success.

“There were consistencies as far as the baseball association, where every year, every spring, I would return to the same place with the same players and play baseball. And that was a joy,” Francis said.

“The facilities were first-class, the coaches were first-class. I think that had a big impact on learning my love for baseball, not only from coaches at a high level, but coaches in tadpole, tee ball, and mosquito [levels] as well.”

During his time with the Thunderbirds (1999 to 2002), the 6-5 southpaw set 11 team pitching records and was twice named a first-team All-American player by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In 2002, he won the Bobby Gaul award, which goes to UBC’s outstanding male athlete of the year, and was named Sport BC’s university athlete of the year.

Francis reminisced about the state of UBC’s baseball program, saying when he played at the school it was in its infancy and the practices took place at Nat Bailey Stadium (now Scotiabank Filed at Nat Bailey Stadium), home of the Vancouver Canadians. Today, UBC has indoor practice facilities with pitching and batting cages, as well as a full-size diamond with bleachers and dugouts.

Francis said he and his former teammates wear that time as a badge of honour.

“At least having some responsibility [for] where the program is today, it’s something that we all relish as a group,” Francis told reporters.

“None of us knew what we were getting into. We knew we wanted a world-class education and the chance to play baseball. You look now at the class of facility the players have available to them. It’s just fantastic to see how far the program has come.”

Thunderbirds baseball program director Terry McKraig said Francis’ decision to play for UBC despite interest from universities across North America helped to jump start the then-brand-new program.

“The UBC baseball varsity program would be nowhere near where we are today without Jeff’s decision to attend UBC,” baseball program director Terry McKaig said in a press release. “Being selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft showed players from across Canada you can still attend UBC and realize your dream of playing professional baseball.”

Francis was drafted ninth overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2002, and was playing in the MLB two years later. In 2007, he posted a 17-9 record, throwing 165 strike-outs and only 63 walks in his 34 starts. That season Francis was named the Rockies’ starting pitcher for Game 1 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Francis would go on to play in the MLB for the next 11 years, taking the mound for the Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. He ended his MLB career with 72 wins and 869 strikeouts, and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. He retired in December 2015.

RELATED: Jeff Francis calls it a career



sasha.lakic@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Former MLB and UBC Thunderbirds pitcher Jeff Francis was joined by his family, including his mother Joanne Francis and his sons Miles and Marshall, as the university retired his number on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Saša Lakić photo)

Former MLB and UBC Thunderbirds pitcher Jeff Francis thanked the crowd for coming out in support as his number was retired at the university’s Tourmaline West Stadium on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Saša Lakić photo)

Just Posted

North Delta’s Kennedy Seniors Centre wins B.C. photo contest

Shot of volunteers counting knit baby hats for BC Children’s Hospital won Volunteer BC’s photo contest

Surrey councillor calls proposed policing transition plan ‘shocking’

Councillor Linda Annis says taxpayers deserve to see the report they paid for

Surrey policing plan sent to provincial government for review

‘I urge our residents to come out and help us shape their Surrey Police Department,’ Surrey mayor says

Surrey Veterans Village groundbreaking ‘monumental’

$312-million project to house Canada’s first ‘centre of excellence’ for PTSD and mental health

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

North Delta happenings: week of May 23

Events and community listings for North Delta

Mother bear, three cubs relocated from Maple Ridge

Silver Valley residents calling for ‘no-kill’ zone.

VIDEO: TransLink to roll out battery-powered bus pilot this summer

Four buses will run a 2.5 year pilot along Marine Drive

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Public warned after man exposes himself to girl, 13, in North Vancouver

RCMP say incident may be linked to others that happened last year

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Most Read