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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Surrey RCMP looking for ‘distraction theft’ suspect

Suspect allegedly tried to swipe a man’s necklace while giving him a hug

White Rock brewery turns up the (alcohol by) volume in COVID-19 fight

3 Dogs Brewing is making hand sanitizer for frontline workers, general public

Cloverdale automobile shop offers to pick up, service, and drop off vehicles

Surrey’s Visscher-Pau Automotive starts ‘Blue Glove’ valet service — will cover Cloverdale, Langley, Newton, Fleetwood, and Hazelmere

1,000 food hampers packed for delivery to students of Surrey’s inner-city schools

City Dream Centre-led initiative involved volunteer effort at Horizon Church in Newton

Surrey councillor wants property taxes deferred to December

Linda Annis is expected to present notice of motion to that effect at April 6 “virtual” council meeting

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read