After 11 big league seasons highlighted by a trip to the 2007 World Series, Jeff Francis is retiring as a professional baseball player.
Born in Vancouver and raised in the suburb of North Delta, Francis was, and still is, the second highest Canadian ever selected in the Major League Baseball Draft as the Colorado Rockies took him 9th overall in 2002. He made his big league debut on August 25th, 2004, the same season that both Baseball America and USA Today made him their Minor League Player of the Year.
The Junior National Team member (1999) became a staple in the Rockies’ rotation and in 2007 led the club with 17 wins and a trip to the postseason where he became the first Canadian pitcher to win a postseason game and only the second Canadian ever to pitch in the World Series.
“It was special to be able to be a champion,” said Francis in an interview with MLB.com. “I know we didn't win it all, but that was a team that came together, even though I don't know what was expected of us. We did special things in dramatic fashion.”
Francis went on to pitch for the Kansas City Royals (2011) and returned to the Mile-High city (2012, 2013) before spending parts of the 2014 season with the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. Prior to the 2015 season Francis signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and went on to appear in 14 games with the big league club. He was part of the team on September 30th when the Jays clinched the American League East pennant.
In addition to wearing the Maple Leaf as a teenager, Francis donned the red and white in 2006 for the inaugural World Baseball Classic and returned to the National Team this past summer for the Pan American Games in Ajax.
After two appearances out of the Canadian bullpen, Canada Manager Ernie Whitt tabbed the tall left-hander to start the gold medal game against the United States where Canada went on to win the contest in dramatic fashion.
A proud Canadian who will be honoured by Baseball Canada in January as the eighth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence, presented by RBC Wealth Management, Francis had this to say after winning Pan Am gold.
“We know how important Baseball Canada’s (National Team) program is, and we try to put back into it what we get out of it,” he said. “We know if we can give the program some notoriety, it can continue and keep producing prospects. To repeat (Pan Am gold), and to do it at home, was special, and hopefully Canadian kids were watching.”