London ball

Induction ceremony in the ballroom a short trip for London pitcher Jeff Francis

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Most Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees travel far and wide for their big day in St. Marys.

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Londoner Jeff Francis, however, is only a little over half an hour away. The Vancouver-born southpaw was the only selection for 2022 and will be honored with the 2020 class of Justin Morneau, John Olerud, Duane Ward and longtime Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet at the first in-person induction ceremony in three years. , scheduled for June 18.

“My parents were visiting in December and I made sure to take them there (in the ballroom),” Francis said. Hall’s operations manager, Scott Crawford, “spent two hours talking to them about the history of baseball in Canada and they enjoyed every second of it. It’s well documented there and they’ve made it a place where people can come from all over and not just see the museum but play whatever game they love.

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“It’s the perfect example of what baseball should look like in Canada.

Francis, who is six-foot-five, was an accomplished latecomer who forged an 11-year major league career with the Rockies, Royals, Reds, A’s, Yankees and Blue Jays. Colorado’s ninth overall pick in 2002 recorded 72 wins (second by Canadian lefties) and ranks fifth in starts (217), eighth in strikeouts (869) and innings pitched (1,291) among Canadian pitchers.

The University of British Columbia standout had his best seasons with the Rockies at Coors Field, a notoriously tough park for pitchers. He was the 2007 staff ace with a 17-9 record, led the team to the National League pennant and became the first Canadian pitcher to start Game 1 of the World Series.

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He also landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated during Colorado’s emotional run, dubbed “Rocktober” until they were swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox.

“When that came out, I had cleaned up all the Wal-Greens on the west side of Denver,” Francis said. “I couldn’t do it myself, so I asked my wife to buy just about every Sports Illustrated. Even if the Rockies win a World Series in the next few years, I think our team from 2007 will be remembered as one of the most memorable teams and being part of it is so satisfying.

“I feel lucky to have been in Colorado because it was the perfect place for me.”

Now that’s how he feels about London. He met his wife, Allison Padfield, a former West Elgin volleyball star, while they were studying and playing at UBC. They have lived here on and off for the past 20 years and have settled there full-time since his playing career ended.

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“London has been my home longer than British Columbia,” he said. “Baseball has meant so much here in London. To this day, my teammates in the major leagues and on Team Canada (like Adam Stern, Chris Robinson and Jamie Romak of the Great Lakes Canadians) give back to the game. game in this area. You just see another wave of talent coming to college and professional baseball (with their help).

Perhaps this area will at some point earn the same reputation as the North Delta Blue Jays. For a two-year period in the late 1990s, the BC Premier League program had Francis and Morneau on the same team.

“That was when I was still catching and Jeff wasn’t throwing as hard as he was when he got to college,” said Morneau, the former Twins star and most valuable player. of the American League in 2006. “He probably weighed 20 pounds less and worked as hard as anyone I had seen in high school to gain strength. He was the best pitcher I’ve ever seen (at this level). I think he lost one game in our two years together. I had set up in the (corners) and he could throw whatever pitch he wanted.

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“I was a bit ahead of him in development to get to the major leagues and then he caught up in a hurry.”

Francis was also a formidable hitter at the time.

“I did the bat cleanup on Justin’s team,” he joked. “So, I’m going to take that straight to the Hall of Fame.”

Francis counts his gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Ajax among the highlights of his career. He was the starter in the final and saw his teammates earn an incredible 7-6 victory in the extra inning after the Americans missed a putout attempt on first base.

“I knew it would be my last year playing,” he said. “My goal was to play for Team Canada at the Pan American Games. It all fell into place and we won it in one of the craziest baseball games I’ve seen in my life. It was crazy.

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Besides helping the National Junior Team as a pitching coach, Francis’ biggest role on the field these days is with his three kids.

“I like coaching them,” he said. “My daughter plays softball, my two boys play baseball. They are still quite young. It’s funny, I told them that I had been elected to the Hall of Fame and they asked me if it was Cooperstown. When I said no, they were a little disappointed, but I’ll have to work on them and tell them how bad it is.

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PROM CALL

(Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Selection Committee Results)

2022 : Pitcher Jeff Francis (11 major league seasons, 72-82 win-loss record, 4.97 ERA, 254 appearances, 217 starts, 1,291 innings, 869 strikeouts)

Induction date : Saturday, June 18 at St. Marys. In-person event scheduled with 2020 inductees Justin Morneau, John Olerud, Duane Ward, Jacques Doucet. The historic 17 inductees of 2021 were posthumously honored in a virtual online ceremony last November.

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