Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ford completes long journey back to MLB

It has been quite the journey for Lew Ford since he last played in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins during the 2007 season. Since that point, he has played baseball in Japan, Mexico, and the Atlantic League. But on Sunday afternoon for the first time in half a decade, the soon to be 36-year old outfielder was in the line-up at the big league level. It is hard to believe that the players that achieved cult status with Twins fans has made it back to the major leagues but he took the hard road to earn his way back to the biggest stage.

The Baltimore Orioles were the team that gave him a shot with their organization in May when he was sent to their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk. With the Tides, he got off to a blistering pace by hitting .386/.426/.596 in the first month with the club. His numbers would cool down a little of the next few weeks but he was still hitting the ball at a very good clip. In 62 games at Triple-A, he hit .331/.390/.550 with 11 home runs, 14 doubles and 40 RBI. Those numbers were too good to ignore for the Orioles and he made what seemed like his second major league debut on Sunday.

Through his first two games with the Orioles, Ford has failed to get a hit by going 0-for-3 on Sunday with a walk and 0-for-4 on Monday night. He has drawn one walk during his eight plate appearances and he had a nifty defensive play during his first game back (see video here). The Orioles are in the thick of a pennant race and Buck Showalter was not afraid to write his name down in the middle of the line-up. He has played in front of the hometown crowd in Baltimore and his second time in the line-up was at Yankee Stadium, a far different venue than some of the places he played in Japan and Mexico.

Ford made a name for himself with the Twins as a scrappy outfielder that put together a couple of decent seasons with the Twins during their runs to multiple division titles in the late-2000s. He debut with the team as a 26-year old rookie in 2003 and his best season with the Twins would come the following year. During the 2004 season, he batted .299/.381/.446 with 15 home runs and 72 RBI. He even managed to get a few MVP votes by the end of the season. It was downhill for Ford from this point as he battled injuries and inconsistent play before he and the Twins parted ways.

It seems that Ford is elated to be back in the major leagues and his performance in the first two games might be signs that he is suffering from a few jitters. He just joined Twitter at the end of March and he took to the social media site to share some of his thoughts when he got called up.
The second time around sounds like it might be sweeter for Ford since he had to work so hard to get back to this level. He had a smile on his face when he played with the Twins but that smiles is even wider now that he has completed this journey. In interviews, it sounded like he was content to stay in the Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks to try and help that team win a championship. He hadn't been given a chance in so many years that he thought it might never happen. The Orioles have given him the chance and now it is up to Ford to prove that he belongs in the middle of the pennant race for a contending team.

There might have been other options for Baltimore in the midst of one of their best seasons in years but there were plenty of people that put their faith in Ford. Before his first game on Sunday, Ford thanked many of the coaches and front office people for the Orioles that gave him this second chance. Buck Showalter said before the game, "That's one of the great things about this jobs is that I get to take in those moments." The Orioles hope Ford can continue to find some magic and provide the team with many more special moments in the coming months.

Fans from across Twins Territory might not have a team fighting for a playoff spot this season but the story of Ford is something for everyone to follow. Chants of "LLLLLLLLLLEEEEEWWWW" will be heard across the upper Mid-West as people dust of their number 20 jerseys and shirts with the name Ford on the top. Baseball is a wonderful game and it's stories like this that make following the sport with every minute.

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