Don't Bet Against Lew Ford
At the beginning of the 2002 season Twins OF Lew
Ford was considered nothing more than an "organization guy" -- a solid minor league player that would fill a roster spot at
AA or AAA, but would never really be a major league prospect. Yet since that time, Ford has made the jump from
AA to AAA, won the organization's Minor League Player of the Year, and become a contributing member to a contending major
Amazingly, if not for a tragic, freak injury, Ford would not be where he is today. On September
8, 2000, Boston reliever Bryce Florie was hit in the face with a line drive which ended his season. The Red Sox, in
the midst of a pennant race, were in desperate need of a pitcher and turned to the Twins, who sent over reliever Hector Carrasco
two days later. The Twins received Lew Ford in return.
Ford, Boston's 12th round pick in 1999, had just completed
the season at single A Augusta. "I was surprised," the native Texan said of the trade. "Our season was over, I was already
home for one day and got a phone call saying I was traded to the Twins. I was really shocked, I hadn't had any kind
of warning.(but) it's worked out for me very well."
Ford joined the Twins organization in 2001 and was assigned to
single A Fort Myers. After hitting .298 in 67 games, he gained a promotion to AA New Britain. Adjusting to the
higher level was a struggle for Ford, as he hit just .218 in 62 games.
After an up-and-down season, Ford entered 2002
on mission. "It was a make or break season because I was probably on the line (of being a legitimate prospect)," Ford explained
in his Texan twang. "I had just an average year (in 2001) and had a good year in (2000), and I was just trying to get
back into that groove again. I really worked hard with the coaches in AA and AAA. I was really comfortable
with my teammates -- we had a great time together. It just worked out well and I had a great season."
that "make or break" season in AA and was promoted to AAA Edmonton in July. He helped the Trappers win the Pacific Coast
League(PCL) Championship, and was named MVP of the PCL playoffs. In two minor league stops, the outfielder hit .318
with 17 homeruns, 121 runs scored, and 28 stolen bases. He was rewarded with the Sherry Robertson Award, given to the
organization's top minor league player.
Ford, who turns 27 in August, began this season at Rochester, the Twins' new
AAA affiliate, and continued his strong play. Then on May 28, he got some good news, "I had just come to the ball park
in Indianapolis and the coach called me into the office and said you've been moved up to the major leagues," the rookie explained.
"I was surprised, since no one had been injured or anything (at the major league level)."
The outfielder made his major league debut the
next day, pinch-hitting against Seattle reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa. He responded with a line-drive base hit, "I'll
always remember that, it's an awesome feeling. It was my first major league at bat, there's a big build up -- I got a hit
-- there were a lot of fans in the stands, it just felt real good."
He instantly became a fan favorite, as the crowd
began chanting "Leeeewww" and have continued ever since. "It's great, every little bit of support feels good," Ford said.
With the teams' outfield situation already crowded, Ford has acted as a fill-in for CF Torri Hunter and LF Jacque
Jones, a role that suits him just fine. "It's about what I expected -- I am satisfied," he said. "Whenever (manager
Ron Gardenhire) has been able to get me in there, he's gotten me
in there. He's given me a chance to play and I
can't ask for anything more than that."
Ford says that his teammates, Hunter in particular, have been helpful as he
adjusts to the big leagues, "I go out in centerfield and work with Torii Hunter everyday," he commented. "I watch what
he does and try to learn how he plays hitters. He helps me out by showing me where to play guys and little things like
Currently Lew Ford is regarded as a career backup player -- someone that is good enough to play in the major
leagues, but not an everyday player on a contending team. Before you count him out, remember he was never supposed to reach
the big leagues anway.
-photos by Sebastian Vannavong
Ford's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
Simply Baseball Notebook