Ford reaches career milestone in Fall League

October 11th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On Oct. 1, was batting leadoff for Great Britain as the international squad secured second place in the European Championship in Brno, Czechia. On Oct. 4, he was making his Arizona Fall League debut in Mesa, nearly 6,000 miles away.

Say this about the guy -- he has a plan for jet lag.

“Stay up until you can fall asleep at a normal time,” he said. “Because if you go to sleep during the day, you’re going to be messed up. You have to stay up until 8-9 p.m. and then you’ll catch on.”

On Oct. 10, Ford proved it hasn’t taken him long to get comfortable in the Fall League.

MLB’s No. 39 overall prospect homered twice and plated five runs in Peoria’s 17-4 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch. The performance marked Ford’s first professional multihomer game since the Mariners selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2021 Draft.

Both of the right-handed slugger’s homers came off left-handed pitchers and with Ford down in the count -- first on an 0-1 pitch from Desert Dogs starter Jake Eder (CWS No. 5) in the second inning and later on an 0-2 offering from reliever Zach Veen in the fifth for a three-run shot.

“I’m always trying to see a fastball,” said the catcher. “The first at-bat, I got one that was middle-middle. The second one, he hung a split or something. I just got two really good pitches to hit. You have to get a good pitch to hit first before you can hit it.”

The first carried an estimated 417 feet onto the berm in left-center while the second one hit the left-field foul pole but TrackMan had it going for 381 feet. Both dingers had exit velocities of 108 mph.

Since Ford arrived in Arizona, all three of his hits have gone for homers, putting him in a tie with teammate Graham Pauley (SD No. 11) and Surprise’s Wes Clarke for the AFL lead, and he’s added five walks, including one with the bases loaded Tuesday as part of an 11-run sixth inning. So if his .250 average in the small sample doesn’t quite pop, his .471 OBP and 1.000 slugging percentage certainly do.

Ford also went deep three times during the Euros for Great Britain, going 9-for-21 (.429) in that competition, thus keeping the power train moving after he went deep 15 times in 118 games for High-A Everett during the regular season. But the relaxed nature of the AFL, in particular, may have been particularly conducive to Ford’s ability to launch.

“I’m using this time to see what other guys are doing, learn from them and play around with stuff that makes me feel a certain way I want to in the cage," he said, adding he’s expected to start twice per week. "We have a lot of time that we don’t have during the regular season and a lot of other coaches too, which are cool to mess around with.”

The 20-year-old backstop began his competitive calendar in March when he took on folk-hero status for Great Britain, having gone deep twice in four games of World Baseball Classic pool play. He only hit the inactive list once in the Northwest League so he could participate in the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle, and he has now seen extra action in the Euros and AFL.

“Playing baseball is what I love doing,” he said. “I could keep going until my body tells me when to stop. For the love of the game, for the love of trying to get better, for the love of wanting to learn -- it’s really exciting for me every single day, so it doesn’t get old.”

It certainly helps to be part of the AFL’s most productive group of hitters. Jakob Marsee (SD No. 12) went 4-for-5 out of the Peoria leadoff spot to improve his AFL average to .615. Pauley and Cleveland's Kyle Manzardo (MLB No. 58) each went deep -- the latter for the second time in as many days.

Tuesday’s 17-run attack gave the 7-0-1 Javelinas 88 total runs through eight games; no other Fall League team has scored more than 55.

“As you can see, I’m batting eighth,” Ford said. “Our lineup is loaded.”