TRENTON, NJ – First baseman Mike Ford certainly was glad to see the Trenton Thunder clubhouse when he arrived July 27 for a few reasons.
First, his injured wrist, which had kept him sidelined – except for a quartet of rehab games with Staten Island – since mid-April had healed. He knew he would be playing close to home, which is in nearby Belle Meade. He was known in the Greater Trenton area for his All-Ivy level of play at Princeton University.
“It’s always nice to see your family and sleep in your own bed when we’re home,” said the 6-foot, 225-pound Ford, who turned 24 last July 4 and is hitting .272 (31-for-114) with eight doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs in 33 games entering Sunday play for the playoff-bound 82-51 Thunder. “It’s a bonus when you are playing.
“It’s just nice to be playing again.”
This past Spring Training, Ford, who swings from the left side., but throws right, was hoping to get to Double-A Trenton sometime in 2016. His road to the Garden State, and his home area, took something of an unpleasant detour.
He was off to a terrific start at Class-A Advanced Tampa, batting .371 (13-for-35) with 14 RBIs in 10 games, when he jammed his wrist April 18 in a game against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, diving back into second base on a pickoff play. He did not see the field again until July 17, when he began the four-game rehab stint with Staten Island.
“That was the first time I missed any kind of time due to an injury,” said Ford. “I had to just follow my process and get back on the field. Rehab is rehab. You can say you are bored, but you accept it and know you are going to get better. That’s your goal when you’re in rehab.
“I just hope to avoid it in the future.”
Ford has settled in with the Thunder, playing first base and filling the designated hitter role for manager Bobby Mitchell’s team, which has put together an exceptional season despite numerous call-ups. He has gotten several key hits and started to show some power.
“Mike’s been valuable for us as we head toward the playoffs.” said Mitchell. “He got his timing back pretty quick. We really can count on him.”
Ford is simply pleased to be able to contribute after missing two months of the season. He had a four-home run game for Charleston vs. Hickory May 25, 2014.
“My hand feels good, and I’m really enjoying it, I played with a lot of these guys in Tampa and Charleston, and we have a lot of talent here. It’s a great clubhouse.”
Ford has not been forgotten at Princeton, either. During his time with the Tigers, he accumulated a bunch of All-Ivy. Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors. He was a star for Princeton on the mound as well, putting together a 6-0 mark with an 0.98 ERA in 64 innings in his final season at for Scott Bradley’s team – hitting .320 with six homers and compiling 38 RBIs when playing first base – during his senior campaign in 2013.
Yet, he went undrafted (teammate Zak Hermans was selected by the Cubs). It took a strong season with the Cotuit Kettlers of the Cape Cod League that summer to get the Yankees’ attention. Ford led the circuit in hitting with a .407 average (35-for-86) in 26 games, with 22 runs, 18 RBIs, 16 walks, seven doubles and five home runs. On the mound, he was 1-0 with nine strikeouts over 7.2 innings..
The Yankees signed Ford July 16, 2013, and, at this point, are more than satisfied.