Green Francis earns Clemente honor
Rockies left-hander nominated for community involvement
DENVER -- Back where Jeff Francis comes from, recycling is as routine as doing the dishes or mowing the lawn.
Francis grew up in British Columbia, Canada, but once the left-hander was promoted to the Rockies in 2004, he quickly realized that such eco-friendly habits weren't universal. As part of an effort to make Coors Field more environmentally resourceful, Francis and his wife, Allison, purchased a few hundred recycle bins and made sure they were placed around the ballpark.
"Recycling is just something I've always done," he said. "When I came down here, I was surprised to see that it's not automatic for people. It's becoming more and more, but it's not something that people think about every day."
Helping shape a recycling program isn't the only thing Francis has done in the Denver community. From teaching pitching fundamentals to children of the Boys & Girls Club to visiting patients at The Children's Hospital, Francis has become as valuable to the community as he is to the Rockies.
For his incredible involvement, Francis has been nominated by the Rockies for the Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet.
"It's extremely flattering," he said. "I enjoy working with the team, and I think this nomination shows that they enjoy working with me as well."
The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.
Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the award now through Oct. 5. The fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
Francis won a franchise-record-tying 17 games last season, but his work away from the diamond has been just as impressive.
During his spare time, Francis participates in many community programs. One such program was the Rocky Mountain Deaf School. Along with an interpreter, Francis read to children and their parents, gave a speech on self-discipline and spent time playing catch with the kids.
Francis is also a big contributor to the Rockies' Make A Difference School Rally, where he has recorded messages to schoolchildren about the importance of staying in school, refusing drugs and alcohol, and getting involved in their community.
The goodwill doesn't stop at the Coors Field gates. Along with the recycling program, Francis regularly signs autographs for terminally ill children through the Care and Share program, a program set up to provide a memorable experience to children of the Make-A-Wish Program, Starlight Foundation and The Children's Hospital.
Francis has a wide array of community involvements, and he insists each endeavor is equally important to him.
"I wouldn't say there's one I hold closer," he said. "They're all for good causes."
Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.