North Delta’s most celebrated baseball player finally got to hold the trophy that carries his name.
Lefty Jeff Francis, who recently retired from the game, met fans and posed for photos during an event at UBC Baseball’s new indoor training facility on Jan. 16.
Players, coaches and parents with North Delta Baseball Association (NDBA) made the trek to the Point Grey campus, and president Brent Dingsdale brought along the trophy given to the winner of the Jeff Francis 11U Mosquito Tournament, played every May long weekend at Annieville Park.
“We’ve been running the tournament for about a dozen years and we have this huge trophy for it, but I’ve never seen a picture of Jeff with the trophy,” Dingsdale explained. “So we brought it down there to the open house at UBC, and I think he was pretty tickled pink to see the trophy. He seemed to really enjoy that.”
Francis played baseball with the NDBA from age five until he left for UBC at age 18. He went on to play 11 seasons in the MLB, starting with the Colorado Rockies in 2004 and ending with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. In the majors, he had a 72–82 win-loss tally and recorded 869 strikeouts.
Francis announced his retirement a few days before Christmas last month.
“I weighed a lot of things,” he told the Now in an email. “Number one, my pitching abilities have diminished enough that I haven’t been very effective in my opportunities at the major-league level for the last couple of years. I’ve been a very good AAA pitcher but weighing that with my family’s difficulty in following me now, with three children, I don’t feel like I’m getting out of it what I’m putting in, and that’s frustrating. I’m so far happy with my decision.”
Francis now lives in London, Ontario, with his wife Allison and their children – daughter Cameron, 6, and sons Miles, 3, and Marshall, 1.
“Most of my winters were spent here during my career for training,” Francis noted.
As a pitcher in MLB action, Francis’ career highlight was starting Game 1 of the 2007 World Series for the Rockies, who lost to the Boston Red Sox that fall.
In international play, he earned a gold medal with Canada’s Pan Am Games team last summer.
The recent open house at UBC was a chance for Francis to reconnect with coaches and others with the Thunderbirds.
“I don’t work with the program directly but I’ve been close with Terry (McKaig, longtime T-bird coach and director of baseball) since I left, as lots of players are,” Francis told the Now. “I try to support in any way I can, as the program means a lot to us former players who had opportunities to play college baseball in Canada.”
Looking back a bit further, the humble Francis is thankful for “lots of great coaches and parents and friends along the way” during his baseball days in North Delta.
“I was surprised they showed up with the trophy, but I’m honored every year when they hold a tournament that carries my name on it,” he said of the group with North Delta Baseball Association.
The association welcomes players to register for its spring season on its website, Ndbaseball.com.