Winter Hot Stove: Ford’s on Fire

Lew-Ford-Licey
After a day’s delay due to another snowstorm on Long Island, we are back with another edition of the Winter Hot Stove.  Today’s post takes a look at Lew Ford, who has become a fan favorite here at Bethpage Ballpark, is one of the Atlantic League’s biggest recent success stories, and who has had quite the week in the Dominican Republic.

For those who don’t know, Ford has been a member of Long Island’s back-to-back championship teams. He began the 2012 season with the Flock, but was quickly signed by the Baltimore Orioles organization after a strong first month of the season. After a successful stint at Triple-A Norfolk, he earned a call-up to the Major Leagues at the end of July, marking his first appearance in “The Show” since 2007. His efforts earned him a spot on the postseason roster where he played against the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.

2013 saw Ford begin in the Orioles minor league system, and after suffering an injury early in the season, work through sports hernia surgery and rehab. Following his rehab, the Orioles released the outfielder, and he quickly found himself back with the Ducks in pursuit of another championship. Ford was downright unstoppable at the plate after that point, collecting hits in 16 of 17 games during the regular season for a .377 batting average before earning at least one hit in all seven playoff games he appeared in, compiling a .412 average. Oh, and he helped the Ducks to a second consecutive Atlantic League trophy.

This winter, Ford spent the majority of his time with Navegantes de Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League. We’ve updated the blog previously about Ford’s winter, but overall, the Texas native hit .304 in 56 games with Magallanes with five home runs, 29 RBI,  37 runs, seven doubles and three triples.

“Venezuela’s winter league has a very high level of competition,” Ford told Quack of the Bat. “Most of the players are Major Leaguers. That being said, many Atlantic League players were very successful down there. I think this says a lot about the quality of players in the Atlantic League. The fans there are intense, very supportive of the team and can get a little wild during the games.”

His success helped lead his team into the round robin playoffs for Venezuela. However, while Magallanes put together a strong enough record there to advance to the Championship Series against Caribes de Anzoategui, the four-year Duck did not have an opportunity to provide an impact.

“I played all season with the Magallanes but was not playing in the playoffs,” he said. “I could have stayed with them off the roster and not played the rest of the playoffs, but I wanted to play. Licey gave me that opportunity.”

Licey refers to Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. They compiled a 29-21 record during the regular season, earning them a third place finish and a spot in the round robin playoffs. There, Licey fought their way past Gigantes del Cibao 9-8 on Saturday, January 18, to earn a spot in the Championship Series against Leones del Escogido, the first place team in the Dominican Winter League during the season.

Enter Ford, who has helped ignite Licey to an early 3-0 lead in the best-of-nine series. In Game One on Monday, he went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double in the first inning and a single and run scored in the fourth of a 2-1 victory. Game Two saw Ford go 0-for-3 at the plate, but he still provided some production with a RBI groundout in the first inning and a walk in the eighth of a 5-1 triumph. Then on Wednesday night, Ford came up with the biggest hit of them all. In the ninth inning of a scoreless game, facing Major League closer Fernando Rodney, the former big leaguer delivered:

His RBI double into the left field corner scored Erick Aybar, another Major Leaguer, giving Licey a 1-0 lead that would hold up to give them a commanding lead in the series. Ford recalled the moment that night in a postgame interview:

A day later, he added:

“I have a lot of respect for Fernando Rodney as a pitcher. This guy is good. The atmosphere in the stadium, situation of the game and facing one the best closers in MLB in the championship series all added up in that moment. You could see how excited our team and fans were. It was amazing.”

For his efforts, he was even rewarded with a nice bottle of champagne from Team President Miguel Guerra Armenteros:

Ford clearly has been enjoying his new team and is just a couple wins shy of helping Licey to the Dominican Series championship and a trip to the Caribbean Series. Should he do that, he will return to Venezuela, where his winter began, to try and lead his new team to the ultimate victory. However, his trip to Licey and first day there did not come without a little bit of drama. “The trip to the Dominican started with a 2:00 a.m. drive to Caracas after packing all night,” recalled Ford. “Without sleep, the trip took 13 hours, including a one-hour lockdown in customs. I felt sick, I thought from not sleeping, but wanted to play in the game. During the fifth inning, I started noticing my eyes swelling and skin breaking out. Then my throat started swelling and closing. They rushed me to the hospital. It was getting worse fast. I could not speak and no one there spoke English. It was a scary situation.  I was thinking they were going to have to poke a hole in to help me breath at any second. Thank God I got out of there alive!” No diagnosis as to what caused the reaction and scary scene, but Ford was extremely thankful the next day on his Twitter account:

We’ll be following along to see how Ford does throughout the remainder of his time in the Dominican with Tigres del Licey. You can follow along as well by CLICKING HERE.

As for the rest of his 2014 plans, he has not finalized those just yet.

“The last few months have been great: winning the Atlantic League championship with the Long Island Ducks, making the playoffs and advancing to the finals in Venezuela with Magallanes and now up 3-0 in the Dominican League Championship Series,” he said. “I haven’t made a decision on the 2014 season, but I’m not done playing yet. Who knows, you may see me on Long Island again. We are the two-time defending champions.”

Only time will tell whether that possibility comes to fruition.

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Posted on January 23, 2014, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nice article about Lew Ford. He has been a major asset for the Ducks and I am looking forward to another Ducks Season in 2014

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