Captain Lew is Back on Board
Yes, one of the biggest fan favorites in Ducks franchise history is returning once again to the Flock. The team announced today that outfielder Lew Ford will be coming back for a fifth season with the Ducks. To put that in perspective, by playing in one game this year, he will be the fifth-longest tenured player in team history. The four who have played more seasons on Long Island are:
Ray Navarrete: 8 (2006-13)
Justin Davies: 6 (2000-05)
Doug Jennings: 6 (2000-05)
Chris McCoy: 6 (2000-01, 2010-13)
The first three names on that list are arguably the three greatest players in franchise history, and Ford certainly deserves to be mentioned among the best. He’s been a wrecking force at the plate in four seasons with the Flock, compiling a club record .330 batting average, 24 homers, 121 RBI and 55 doubles in 201 games. On Monday, we had the chance to catch up with the 37-year-old to get his thoughts on returning to Long Island:
Let’s take a look back at some highlights of Lew Ford’s four years with the Flock:
Ford came to the Ducks after spending the 2008 season in Japan. Determined to get back to the Majors after spending five seasons there (2003-07), he put together an outstanding year for the Ducks. In 93 games, he posted the Atlantic League’s second-highest batting average at .333, adding 10 homers, 55 RBI, 77 runs and 26 doubles in the process. Then in August, he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds organization and went right to the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Although he wouldn’t return to the Majors that year, it was the start of something special for Ford in a Ducks uniform and in his quest to return to “The Show.”
Following a year in the Mexican League, Ford joined the Ducks again in 2011 on a roster loaded with talent. From former Major Leaguers to Atlantic League veterans to promising young players, the forecast for the 2011 team was bright from the beginning. Despite battling hamstring injuries during the year, Ford compiled a solid season. He batted .318 in 72 games, hitting 10 home runs, driving in 45 runs, posting a .406 on-base percentage and adding 21 doubles. His efforts, along with those of his teammates, helped the team to First and Second Half Liberty Division titles and the best record in the Atlantic League at 78-47. The playoffs saw Ford hit a big home run in Game Three of the Liberty Division Championship Series, lifting the Flock to their first Division championship since 2004. However, he and the rest of the offense ultimately struggled in the Championship Series, and their magical season fell two wins short of a title.
Ford came back to start the 2012 season with one goal in mind: bringing home the trophy they set out for a year before. Ford knew what his mission was, and in one month with the Flock, he did everything possible at the plate to put his team back in the playoffs. Over 19 games, Ford batted .333 with four home runs, 14 RBI and six doubles. Upon returning from their first-ever series in Sugar Land, Texas, Ford found out that the Baltimore Orioles had purchased his contract from the Ducks. He would head to Triple-A once again and would dominate with Norfolk, hitting .331 with 11 longballs, 40 RBI and 14 doubles in 62 games. Then, he got the call he had been waiting for since the end of the 2007 season: the Orioles were calling him up to the Major Leagues. Back in the bigs, he played in 25 games and picked up three homers, including one off Yankees ace CC Sabathia, and helped the O’s to the American League Division Series against those same Yankees. While his team ultimately lost the series in five games, Ford was 3-for-8 with a RBI and a run scored during the series.
The 2013 season started off somewhat disappointingly for Ford. He surprisingly did not receive a spot on the Major League club out of Spring Training despite a .405 batting average and began the year with Double-A Bowie. He rightfully earned a call-up to Triple-A Norfolk after less than two weeks, but a groin injury forced Ford to miss a chunk of the season rehabbing. He ultimately would return to Double-A in August, but the Orioles decided to released him towards the end of August. Rather than sit out the rest of the year, Ford returned to a place that had become home for him. He re-joined the Ducks for the Second Half pennant push and dominated at the plate once again. In 17 games, he batted .377 with seven RBI and 26 hits, leading Long Island back to the playoffs for a third consecutive season. There, he continued to crush the ball by earning hits in all seven games he played and posting a .412 batting average. After listening to the Flock win a championship on a computer in a Major League clubhouse the year before, Ford was able to celebrate with his teammates on the field in Bridgewater, New Jersey when the Ducks beat the Somerset Patriots in Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series.
Now, Ford is about to embark on another year manning center field for the Ducks, but he will have a new role this season as well. Ford will begin what he hopes will be a second phase of his successful baseball career as a coach. Players often reference the high-caliber play in the Atlantic League and ability to learn from former Major Leaguers as to why they enjoy playing here. Having Ford as a mentor to younger members of the Ducks roster will be an extremely valuable asset for Long Island. Not to mention, he has been a leader since his first day in a Ducks uniform. It was clearly evident in 2013 how much Ford’s presence brought the clubhouse together toward the end of the season and lifted up a team that had struggled to gain traction all season long. This year, his talent, knowledge and love for the game will be in the clubhouse and on the field from the beginning.
Fans have had a reason to be excited about every signing the Ducks have made so far this offseason. Five players from last year’s championship team are now back, and the four others who have signed (Fehlandt Lentini, Chris McClendon, Jon Myers and Casey Barnes) have all been very successful in independent baseball. With Ford in the fold, the Faithful Flock can expect him to put the same effort and passion into the game that he has since he first joined the Ducks. His .302 batting average and .377 on-base percentage in the minor leagues are impossible to overlook. Ford knows how to hit and he knows how to get on-base. He also still has solid speed, making him the perfect fit for the lead-off spot in Kevin Baez’s lineup as he was in 2013. Defensively, he’ll spend most of his time in center field since he covers so much ground and judges fly balls exceptionally well. His .987 career fielding percentage and 68 outfield assists can attest to his fielding prowess.
Baez is fortunate to have a guy like Ford in his lineup and on his coaching staff. His teammates are fortunate to be able to learn from a professional and experienced player like him. And finally, Ducks fans are fortunate to have a player to watch every day and cheer on like him. 2014 was shaping up to be a fun year in franchise history already, and adding Lew Ford to the mix makes the outlook even more exciting.
Posted on February 24, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged 15th Anniversary Team, 2014, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Championship, Kevin Baez, Lew Ford, Long Island Ducks, Major League Baseball. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.