When Jeff Francis joined the Rockies in late August of 2004, his teammates added a couple letters to the nameplate over his locker, turning "Francis" into "Franchise." He's lived up to the billing, earning ace status over the '07 season and pacing the pitching staff to two rounds of postseason dominance.Though low-key by nature, Francis catapulted into the spotlight with a co-starring role in a Rockies short promotional film, making fun of the mystique of the Coors Field "humidor," the walk-in storage chamber designed to keep baseballs from losing weight and texture in the dry, mile-high atmosphere. In the promo, Francis and fellow starter Aaron Cook pick out baseballs by smell, dropping "smoking fastballs," "sweet changeups" and "smooth sliders" in the Rockies' ball bag, while tossing a stinking "hanging curveball" in the visitors' bag. When Cook offers a whiff of one ball to Francis, asking, "Cuban?" the southpaw from north of the border deadpans, "No, I'm Canadian."
Francis is one of a growing minority of Canadians who resisted the national call to the hockey rink and turned to the ol' ballgame, following a trail blazed by the likes of former teammate Larry Walker. He found moderate success as a youngster growing up in British Columbia, and he jumped into his academic pursuits as a physics major in college, reading books like Robert Adair's "The Physics of Baseball" for homework. But no, he will tell you, despite his prowess sniffing out pitches in the humidor, his physics background has had no bearing on his ability to perform at altitude.Though Francis celebrated the end of his rookie season by getting married to his longtime sweetheart, the former Allison Padfield, on New Year's Eve 2005, he had to miss his older brother's wedding two years later, because the long-planned ceremony was set for Game 1 of the NLCS, with Francis battling the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb. "This is a once in a lifetime thing, and my brother wants me to be here," Francis said. "I promised him some World Series tickets, so I hope that makes up for it."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.