Lew Ford Continues to Live His Baseball Dream
Image courtesy of Long Island DucksFord’s Origins
Ford was drafted in the 12th round of the 1999 amateur draft by the Boston Red Sox. He had spent four years in college, so he was 22-years old when he signed. His time in the Boston organization would be short lived, as he was deal to Minnesota on September 9, 2000 for Hector Carrasco.
He spent the 2001 season at High-A and Double-A without showing many positive signs. He hit .259/.333/.377 with 38 extra-base hits in 129 games. He was over a year older than the competition in the Florida State League. He 2002 season might have been his coming out party. He combined for a .903 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A. It was getting harder for the Twins to ignore his production.
Ford continued to hit the ball at Triple-A in 2003 and the Twins called him up. He played 34 games that season and batted .329/.402/.575 with 11 extra-base hits in 34 games. Ford got one playoff at-bat that year and struck out against Mariano Rivera in his only plate appearance. Minnesota would fall to the Yankees three games to one.
Ford’s best season was the 2004 campaign. He played 154 games and batted .299/.381/.446 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles. It was his only big-league season where he’d finish with double-digit home runs. He finished in the top-25 in the MVP voting. He’d play 147 games in 2005 but his numbers came back to the pack. His OBP was still .338 but his slugging percentage dipped to .377.
Minnesota would use Ford for 159 games over the next two seasons, but his numbers continued to dwindle. He played 104 games in 2006 and his OBP dropped to .287 and his slugging percentage dropped to .312. He was granted his free agency in October 2007.
Ford tried to mount comebacks with multiple teams in the years after leaving Minnesota. The Rockies and the Reds signed him, but he never appeared at the big-league level. However, he would make it back to the big leagues in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles.
He played in 25 regular seasons games that season and saved his best for the postseason. In three playoff games, he went 3-for-9 with a double, an RBI and two runs scores. Baltimore won the AL Wild Card Game against Texas but fell to the New York in the ALDS. For Ford, he got to relive his big-league dream at age-35.
Long Island Legend
Since he turned 32, Ford has played parts of multiple seasons with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League. He has also spent time playing in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic but Long Island has become his second home.
During the 2018 campaign, he was 41 years old. That was almost 12 years older than the competition in the Atlantic League. He played 123 games and hit .293/.352/.432 with 33 doubles and 10 home runs. This season, he has served as a coach and mentor, but the Ducks have still allowed him to play in 11 games during his age-42 season.
Wally Backman, Long Island’s manager, has nothing but praise for Ford.
“He's been here, he's a part of this community, and if he wants to play and thinks he can still perform, I'll have him here with me. Lew is in the gym every day, there's a lot of work. He takes care of himself very well. You see the longevity of players today outlast players of when I played. There's so much more for a player to do -- the vitamins and the work ethic -- where we just played baseball in the 80's. We weren't in the gym like these players are today and we didn't have the supplements that are available to the players today. If you take care of yourself, and I think Lew has done that, you're able to play up to that level. Lew can hit, and he can still run."
Over 21-seasons at all levels, he has hit .296/.369/.448. He has 2331 career hits, 193 career home runs, and 495 career doubles. If you listen closely, you can still hear the chants of his name radiate at the Metrodome.
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