It is so exciting to watch baseball when your boys are playing - and I mean that literally. The great thing about minor league baseball is that you get to know the players before they disappear into the big leagues .
Jeff Francis with my daughter Jennifer / May 2003
Jeff Francis with my daughter Catherine / August 2003
Sometimes, as in Jeff Francis' case, they are here only for a little while. Other times they stay for a couple of seasons before we have to say goodbye.
But because I was an active member in the Visalia Oaks Booster Club since 1998 (six years as secretary and board member, wrote mission statement) we knew our boys very well.
In fact, several of them have eaten in our home. And Jeff Francis' family (Uncle) used to invite my children and I to their home in British Columbia. Now it is so exciting to see Jeff Francis pitching the first game of the World Series - needless to say I am cheering for the Colorado Rockies!
Jeff Francis is not the only one - we have several - FIVE - former players -- representing our Visalia Oaks in the World Series.
In the National League - left-hander Jeff Francis (2003) is starting - impressive - he only stayed in Single A one season and quickly moved up - making it to the majors for a cup of coffee his second season - eventually staying there for good. Now he's their No. 1 pitcher. He has been outstanding in his two post-season starts, boasting a 2-0 record and a 2.13 ERA. Jeff has had unbelievable control, striking out 12 and walking just 3 in 12.2 innings.
The Rockies second starter is also someone we know - Ubaldo Jimenez (2003-2004) - and he is just as impressive as Jeff Francis. He has a quick fastball and a 1.59 ERA. Ubaldo has plenty of "swings and misses" - striking out 11 in 11 1/2 innings.
Ryan Speier (2003) has yet to give up an earned run in the 2007 postseason. He has collected one save in two outings and has given up one hit and no walks in 2.1 innings pitched.
Rockies outfielders Ryan Spilborghs (2004) -- batting .300 through five of seven games, scoring three times, and has an on-base percentage upwards of .450
and Jeff Baker (2004) batting .667 (2 for 3) and has one RBI
sidenote: When the Rockies played the Diamondbacks in the playoffs - I got to see three more Oaks players there -- Justin Upton(2007 Oaks player - imagine going from Single A to the majors in the same year) Jeff Salazar (2003-2004 Oaks player) and Eric Byrnes (1998 Oaks
Jeff offers advice on how to hold and throw a baseball correctly
Jeff Francis watches Jennifer pitch
Jeff Francis pitching to Jennifer
Jennifer at bat - Jeff Francis pitches to her
(all photos by Esther Avila)
Ubaldo Jimenez with Catherine and Jennifer, 2003