June 13, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its first in-person induction ceremony since 2019 this Saturday in St. Marys, Ont.
Four inductees will be honoured: Jeff Francis (2022), Justin Morneau (2020), Duane Ward (2020) and Pedro Martinez (2018).
In the days leading up to the event, I will be profiling each of the inductees, beginning today with Francis:
Jeff Francis Hall of Fame Bio:
Born in Vancouver in 1981, Francis grew up in North Delta, B.C. He honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays of the B.C. Premier Baseball League before starring on the mound for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds from 1999 to 2002, where he was twice selected a NAIA First Team All-American.
After the 2001 collegiate season, the 6-foot-5 lefty went 7-1 in the highly competitive Alaskan Baseball League and captured the circuit’s Player of the Year honours. His performance convinced the Colorado Rockies to select him in the first round (ninth overall) in the 2002 MLB draft.
His third season in the Rockies’ organization was his true breakout campaign. That season, he combined to go 16-3 with a 2.21 ERA with 196 strikeouts in 154-2/3 innings in 24 starts for double-A Tulsa and triple-A Colorado Springs. His dominance earned him Minor League Player of the Year honours from Baseball America and USA Today, as well as a big league call-up at the end of the season.
In 2005, his first full MLB campaign, Francis won 14 games and struck out 128 batters in 183 2/3 innings in 33 starts and finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Two seasons later, he posted career-highs in wins (17), starts (34), innings pitched (215-1/3) and strikeouts (165) to help propel the Rockies to the National League pennant. He made three postseason starts and became the first Canadian pitcher to start Game 1 of a World Series. For his efforts, he finished ninth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
In all, in an 11-season career that saw him toe the rubber for the Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, Francis finished with 72 major league wins, which is the second-most by a Canuck left-hander. He also ranks second all-time among Canadian southpaws in games started (217) and innings pitched (1,291).
Among all Canadian major league pitchers (left-handers and right-handers), he ranks fifth in starts, seventh in wins and eighth in strikeouts (869) and innings pitched.
Francis has also competed for the Canadian national team on multiple occasions, including with the Junior National Team in 1999, the World Baseball Classic squad in 2006 and on the gold medal-winning team at the 2015 Pan Am Games. In 2016, he became the eighth person added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence.
Francis, who now lives in London, Ont., was also inducted into the University of British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and his number 16 was retired by the school 11 years later. In 2020, he was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
Francis on being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame:
“I was so excited to get the news from the Hall of Fame of my induction,” said Francis. “When I see the list of people and players that I will be joining on the walls in St. Marys, I’m honoured and humbled to be considered to be on that level. This is not something that is ever in an athlete’s mind during his or her playing days, but in the time since my last days of playing, I’ve become proud of what I accomplished in baseball. I consider this not just a recognition of my achievements in the game, but of the coaching, mentorship, and support I’ve received from so many other people.”
First MLB Game: August 25, 2004, started and pitched five innings for the Rockies, allowing six runs, but striking out an impressive eight batters.
First MLB Strikeout: Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal, the first batter he faced on August 25, 2004.
First MLB Win: September 5, 2004, started and threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres in the Rockies’ 5-2 win at Petco Park.
First MLB Hit: April 8, 2005. Singled off San Francisco Giants’ starter Noah Lowry to lead off the third inning.
First Multi-Hit Game as a Batter: June 30, 2005. He went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs and also tossed six scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-0 Rockies’ win at Busch Stadium.
First MLB Complete Game Shutout: July 24, 2006 vs. the Cardinals. He allowed just two hits and struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in the Rockies’ 7-0 win.
First Double-Digit Strikeout Game: September 8, 2007 vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started and struck out out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 Rockies’ win.
First MLB Start in Canada: August 25, 2011 vs. the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He allowed two runs and struck out five in six innings to pick up the win in the Kansas City Royals’ eventual 9-6 victory.
-Played on the North Delta Blue Jays with fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) in grade 11 and 12. Morneau went on to hit 247 major league home runs, while Francis starred as a major league pitcher. But it was Francis who batted cleanup on those North Delta teams. “That was back when I was still catching and Jeff wasn’t throwing as hard as he was once he got to college, I mean he was probably 20 pounds lighter, but he worked as hard as anybody I’d ever seen in high school just to put on strength,” recalled Morneau on the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame conference call in February.