Appreciative Lew Ford Is Major Leaguer Today, But Will Get Championship Ring From Long Island
The delightful story of Lew Ford’s journey from the Atlantic League in April and May to the parent Baltimore Orioles in late July to the American League Postseason in October still has, dare we say, “a nice ring” to it for Independent Baseball as the major league season marches to a conclusion.
Pardon the reach for a pun, but the Long Island Ducks, with whom Ford originally pledged to help win the Atlantic League title until the Orioles snapped up his contract May 17, did their part with a ninth inning rally in the thrilling deciding game at their Central Islip home in eastern New York simultaneously to Baltimore battling the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series.
Now, the Ducks have confirmed Ford will receive a championship ring for his part in their season, which covered 19 early-season games (.333-4-14) and also brought uncounted publicity value to Long Island, the league and the Independent game.
“We told him about it after we won, and he was very excited and grateful,” said President and General Manager Michael Pfaff.
We have written in recent months about the mutual admiration between the 36-year-old Ford, who had been out of the majors since 2007 and had played 183 games during three seasons with the Ducks, but the story continues to show life.
While his postseason role with Baltimore was primarily to start against some left-handers such as Yankees ace C. C. Sabathia, I cannot help but wonder how many fans realize Ford’s .375 batting average (3-for-8 with a double, run and RBI) actually led the Orioles during their sterling five-game set that gave the New Yorkers all they could handle. Only three teammates had more hits, even if they played fulltime, as Baltimore hit .187.
Ducks’ Title Surge Ranks With Giants, Yankees Feats
The fact the Ducks won three of the last four games against the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers to capture their second Atlantic League title (2004) seemed of upset proportions right up there with San Francisco coming from two games down to sweep three in Cincinnati and virtually every one of the vital New York Yankees going stone cold at the plate all at the same time.
Butch Hobson’s ‘Stormers had set a record for wins (88) in the 15-year-old league, won a first-half title, tied for the second-half divisional crown and pounded two-time defending champion York, PA in a three-game first-round playoff sweep while Long Island had floundered to a 24-44 second-half and barely escaped posting the worst overall record in the 140-game season despite a first-half championship of its own.
But second-year skipper Kevin Baez, leaning heavily on a rent-a-pitcher re-tooling from the American Association and Can-Am League plus the acquisition of a closer from the Atlantic League’s Camden, NJ team, bolstered the Ducks’ roster and it paid off. The deciding Game 5, when Long Island squeezed home a run in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 victory, was indicative because Bobby Blevins, who had spent the regular season with the Rockland (NY) Boulders of the Can-Am League, pitched the first six innings, Matt Way of Laredo, TX (American Associaton) hurled the seventh and closer Leo Rosales, a 1.52 reliever acquired from Camden with a week to go in the regular season, worked the ninth.
Way, since sold by Laredo to the Arizona Diamonbacks, John Brownell, who was with Grand Prairie, TX (American Association), and Blevins made starts in six of Long Island’s 10 playoff games and went a combined 3-0. Rosales, who was in Arizona’s bullpen from 2008-10, had all three of the team’s playoff saves.
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New Astros Field Boss Wants to Help Newark Bears
It is difficult to believe because of its long history in baseball, but it is said new Houston Astros Manager Bo Porter is the first major league manager who grew up in Newark, NJ (Can-Am League). Even more important, Porter is not shy in saying he would like to do anything he can to re-build the city’s professional baseball reputation, which has struggled in recent years in both the Atlantic League and now in the Can-Am.
“I will do anything I can to help the city of Newark because my roots are there, and baseball has taken a dive over the years,” he said in an interview with the city’s leading newspaper, The Star-Ledger. “…I know what it (baseball) can do for kids, so it’s something I’d like to see…thrive. We need to bring it back.”
Presumably, the Bears will come up with ways Porter can add more than moral support.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)