Reds Draft pick sticks to hitting on advice from relative -- Whitey Ford

July 15th, 2024

With their third-round Draft pick (87th overall), the Reds drafted OF out of Northeastern University.

As a child, Sirota was fascinated by the tales his granduncle and MLB Hall of Famer Whitey Ford told about his legendary career with the Yankees.

Pitching for the storied mid-century Bronx Bombers from 1950-67, Ford won six World Series, played in 10 All-Star Games and won a Cy Young Award (in 1961). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and later had his No. 16 retired by the Yankees. In addition to Cooperstown, his plaque hangs in historic Monument Park at Yankee Stadium alongside Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra -- all Ford’s former teammates.

“My perception of the sport was definitely altered from hearing some of those stories,” Sirota said. “Learning how those guys go about their business and implementing that into my routine and all that stuff.”

As much success as he had on the mound, Ford, who passed away in 2020, wanted his grandnephew’s career to head in a different direction.

A young Mike Sirota and his granduncle Whitey FordMike Sirota

“He made sure that I kept a bat in my hands because he didn't want me to pitch because he messed up his shoulder,” Sirota said with a chuckle. “He made sure my mom kept the lacrosse stick out of my hand too.”

Ford knew what he was talking about. Sirota, MLB Pipeline’s No. 50 Draft prospect, kept the bat in his hands and was drafted 492nd overall in the 2021 MLB Draft by the Dodgers.

He opted not to sign and craved a strong career at Northeastern University in Boston. In his three years with the Huskies, the 21-year-old slashed .324/.457/.576 with 29 home runs and 111 RBIs. He left the program with the most runs in a season (73) and walks in a season (59) -- a record once held by Carlos Peña.

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Defensively, his speed projects him to be an everyday center fielder along with a threat on the bases. He slugged 18 long balls during his sophomore year and is predicted to be a 20-20 player when he is playing at his best.

The summer before his junior year he played in the Cape Cod League, one of the most prestigious summer college leagues. In 33 games he hit .276 with 16 RBIs.

Mike Sirota running the 30-yard dash at the 2024 MLB Draft Combine.

But the right-handed hitter admits that he wasn’t satisfied with the results this past season. That says a lot about his expectations of himself considering he ​​hit 16 doubles, two triples and seven home runs for a .513 slugging percentage.

“My knowledge of myself as a player is a lot better than most other people's,” Sirota said. “I struggled a little bit [this year]. What I came out of that with is just a bunch of information about myself, my swing, my demeanor at the plate, my process.

“I think being able to separate performance and your mental sort of fortitude is huge for me. Being able to go about things the way you want to should be different than the result you may have had in a game.”

“I know he didn’t have the year he expected, but he’s a talented player," said Reds amateur scouting director Joe Katuska. "He’s an athletic center fielder. He has five-tool potential. When you go underneath the hood on some of the stuff -- his swing decisions, how he controls the zone, how hard he hits the ball -- it’s all still there. He just ran into some bad luck this year, unfortunately.”

There is no shortage of questions asked about Ford. Sirota embraces every single story he has about his granduncle; after all, his influence is the reason Sirota pushed himself to excel in the game. Now, he’s going to use his lineage to honor Ford in the best way possible.

“Having that bloodline brings a spotlight and creates some expectations,” Sirota said. “Honestly, using those expectations fuels your game and motivates you to try to improve as a player to meet those expectations, I think it's something that's helped me sort of bring out more of a competitive side.”

Mike Sirota