The UBC Thunderbirds are excited and proud to honour legendary former T-Bird and long-time Major League Baseball pitcher Jeff Francis who will have his Thunderbirds jersey officially retired at a special ceremony on Saturday, March 9 at Tourmaline West Stadium.
“Retiring the Jeff Francis #16 jersey will be an historic day for the UBC baseball program,” said program director Terry McKaig. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a while to signify what Jeff has meant to UBC baseball. Now having Tourmaline West Stadium gives us the perfect venue to honour him.”
Prior to his stellar MLB career, Francis spent three memorable years with the Thunderbirds starting in the 1999-2000 season following his graduation from North Delta Senior Secondary. During his three years with the Thunderbirds, Francis set 11 new team pitching records and was twice named an NAIA first team All-American. A star in the classroom as well, Francis was named an Academic All-Canadian three times.
His outstanding work on the mound earned him a spot on Baseball America’s 2002 pre-season All-American team, the first such appearance for a player at a Canadian school.
Francis was drafted ninth overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2002, a year in which he won UBC’s Bobby Gaul award as the school’s most outstanding male athlete along with Sport B.C.’s University Athlete of the Year.
“My three years at UBC were some of the best of my life,” said Francis who retired following the 2015 MLB season. “Lifelong friendships were made and many memories are etched in my mind forever. Having my jersey retired by the baseball team is an honour that I never would have thought possible when I first stepped on campus in 1999.”
Francis spent a total of 11 years playing professional baseball including stints with the Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and, most notably, the Rockies. Francis won 17 games with Colorado in 2007, pitching over 200 innings while helping the Rockies all the way to the World Series. With an NLDS victory over the Philadelphia Phillies that year, Francis became the first Canadian starting pitcher to win a postseason game, and later entered the history books as just the second Canadian to start a World Series game.
Francis ended his MLB career with 72 wins and 869 strikeouts while also earning a gold medal with team Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“The UBC baseball varsity program would be nowhere near where we are today without Jeff’s decision to attend UBC,” added McKaig. “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. The facts are simple, if you can play, MLB teams will find you here just like our other 21 Thunderbird players that have been selected in the draft.”
Francis will be officially honoured between the two games of UBC’s doubleheader against the Corban Warriors on Saturday, March 9. First pitch of game one is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.
UBC opens conference play for their 2019 NAIA season Friday, March 1 at 6:00 p.m. when they host the Lewis-Clark State Warriors for the first of a four-game series.