Ford, Young say 'see you later' to Mariners camp after invaluable experience

March 15th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For and , it’s not “goodbye,” but rather, “see you later.”

The Mariners’ top prospects by MLB Pipeline were slated to play in their final contest in the big league ballpark in Peoria on Friday in the first Spring Breakout game against the Padres, before it was cancelled due to rain.

Now, they’ll head toward their seasons in the Minors. Both are expected to begin at Double-A Arkansas, a promotion for each after finishing 2023 as teammates at High-A Everett. From there, as the Mariners’ front office typically says: “You’re only one call away.”

Off the field, Young (Seattle’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline) and Ford (No. 2) have become good friends -- even if they have drastically different personalities.

Young hails from cold-weather Pittsburgh, he speaks and plays very simplistically, and away from the field, he enjoys his boundaries from the game, notably with his buddies and long sessions of Fortnite. Ford grew up in suburban Atlanta with parents from Great Britain, which led to his eligibility to play in last year’s World Baseball Classic, and he would attend as many home Mariners games on Everett’s off-days as possible.

First-round picks one year apart -- Ford in 2021 and Young in ‘22 -- their paths collided last year at Everett, where they spent time together away from the park. Young, funny enough, is quite a baker, and would -- pun intended -- treat teammates to cookies, which Ford raved about.

“A lot of the things that came up were what comes with being a first-rounder, a lot of pressure that it may feel like that we both experienced,” Ford recounted of their early conversations. “Another thing was just like growing-up stuff, like being on your own on a team and like wondering how you fit in and stuff like that and trying to find your place.”

Added Young: “He was my first roommate in [Single-A] Modesto, so he would drive me to the field every single day that season. He's an awesome person. We're pretty close friends. So yeah, he pretty much said, ‘Just enjoy it, soak as much information as possible, ask questions, and just have fun.’”

Moreover, Young and Ford left a lasting impression within Major League camp this spring -- beyond manager Scott Servais and their positional coaches, but perhaps more telling, among their superiors within the clubhouse.

J.P. Crawford pointedly took Young under his wing, inviting him to carpool to Cactus League road games, an uncommon practice for a veteran to a prospect. And Cal Raleigh further fostered his relationship with Ford dating to last spring, when Raleigh invited the 21-year-old to join Seattle’s catchers as first arrivals each morning, typically in the 5 a.m. hour.

These were one-on-one examples between two leaders, who not long ago were in the same shoes as Young and Ford. Extending to the rest of the clubhouse, Young was the center of good-natured heckling in morning meetings, when being quizzed by Servais about current events. Ford, a savvy saxophonist, was invited to be part of the team’s closed-door band performance for the second year in a row.

“If you realize that a young player is good, he’s going to play in the big leagues, you tend to help that guy out a little bit more,” Servais said. “So I did explain that to [the prospects], the reason they’re talking to you and giving back to you is because they know you’re good. And the reason they give you a hard time and you get up in the meeting and they’re razzing you is because they know you’re good. I want the players to take the positive out of that.”

Young went 6-for-22 in 12 games, with one homer, one double and five RBIs, while making all the defensive plays at second base, which he's expected to play long term. The advanced approach that many had touted entering camp was evident.

Ford went 2-for-10 with two walks and five strikeouts. Ford really shined with his glove, though, with three caught-stealings, including one from his knees and another with a 1.87 pop time, well above league average (2.00).

Servais said he wouldn’t be shocked if Young reaches the Majors this season, hedging that it’d hinge on critically unforeseen circumstances. The same could be true for Ford, especially if he keeps hitting. Because throughout this spring, they showed that they’re not as far off as when they arrived one month ago.