Dad beams as Ford leads breakthrough for Britain

Mariners' top prospect, father overjoyed as team qualifies for Classic for first time

March 8th, 2023

PHOENIX -- Mariners top prospect Harry Ford had barely figured out which direction to run around the bases when his dad started dreaming of him playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Now, here they are.

“It means the world to me,” said Alan Ford, the proud dad. “I’ve been thinking about this since he was 4 or 5 years old when he first started playing baseball. I said, ‘You know you’re qualified to play for Britain?’”

That dream is coming true this week as Ford, two weeks removed from his 20th birthday, leads Great Britain into the country’s first appearance in the World Baseball Classic. With two players from 40-man rosters (Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson and Reds reliever Ian Gibaut), the Brits are in the tournament thanks in no small part to their young catcher Ford, who hit .455 with three home runs in three victories during the qualifying event last September in Regensburg, Germany. His three home runs were the most of any player in the qualifying tournament. His eight RBIs tied for the most.

Now it’s prime time. Great Britain, after tuneups on Wednesday against the Brewers and Thursday against the Royals, opens Pool C play at 7 p.m. MST Saturday against Adam Wainwright and Team USA at Chase Field. 

You can bet Alan Ford will be there. 

“It’s really cool for him. I know it is,” Harry Ford said. “This is the happiest I’ve seen him for baseball in a while.”

Both of Ford’s parents were born in Great Britain, but they met in the U.S.; Alan crossed the pond for a job in the early 2000s, and Deborah Ford came to the U.S. via Jamaica seeking the American dream. They met in Georgia, had Harry in 2003 and saw him embrace both baseball and soccer as a boy.

The seasons clashed, so at some point, there came a time to make a choice. If Alan Ford had a spot in his heart for soccer, he didn’t attempt to influence his son.

“I thought he was better at baseball,” Alan Ford said. “I never, ever forced him. Each year, I said, ‘Do you want to play?’ He never had any pressure from me.”

Each year, Harry got better and better. The Mariners drafted him 12th overall in 2021 and he thrived in his first full professional season in ‘22, putting up a .274/.425/.438 slash line at Low-A Modesto before joining Great Britain in qualifiers.

His success at that tournament was a thrill for the family, including Ford’s 81-year-old grandmother, who made the trip. The entire extended family back home, Alan Ford said, is suddenly crazy for baseball. 

“Baseball doesn’t have a very high profile in Britain,” he said, “but when they qualified there was a full-page article in the London Times. The BBC ran a segment on it. These games are all live in the U.K. as well. That’s probably the biggest thing -- what it might do for the future of British baseball.” 

It has already meant a lot to the current state of British baseball. 

“I know what it means to the guys who have been on the team since 2012 or ‘14,” Harry Ford said. “After [the team qualified for the Classic], half the team was in tears. We had a meeting [Tuesday], and almost every guy who has been on the team said it was the best week, the best day of their lives. It was pretty gnarly.” 

Said dad: “For Harry, he’s come in and it’s great, he loves it. But for some of the coaches, for some of the guys who have been through three or four iterations of this tournament, to actually make it to the big stage is phenomenal. It means a lot to everybody.” 

And what could it do for Ford’s own career? He’s already squarely on the prospect map, up to No. 49 on MLB Pipeline’s overall Top 100.

“For the scouts and front office [officials], they all know who he is,” Alan Ford said. “He’s not going to take anybody by surprise. But in the wider baseball world, I think his profile is going to shoot up, that’s for sure. I think he’s going to learn a lot playing with these players and against these players.”

Harry Ford is thrilled to have his father along for the ride. 

“My dad hasn’t missed many of my games,” he said. “He’s followed everything since I was a baby. He’s always supported me. I didn’t know his love for Britain and his love for baseball would ever connect. It’s pretty cool.”