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Saturday, September 14, 2019

At 43, Lew Ford’s Never-Ending Career Keeps Rolling as Player-Coach

The first time Lew Ford thought his professional baseball career had reached its end came 1,911 games, 11 teams, five leagues, three countries and 18 years ago. Back then, he was a 24-year-old outfielder buried in the Minnesota Twins’ farm system, frustrated that his first taste of Double A had gone so poorly in 2001. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science and living in Austin, Tx., he figured he could get a good-paying job with one of the local tech companies—one that would allow him to settle down and raise a family instead of playing for pennies. But before he gave up on the big leagues, he talked to his wife, Corri, about what the future might hold. They agreed that he’d give baseball one more shot.

“I knew I needed to step it up or do something else,” Ford says. “Something else” never materialized: Nearly two decades later, he remains in the game at 43 years old, cranking away as a player-coach for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Far past the point when most others would have put away their bats and away from the major league spotlight, Ford continues to churn for as long as his body and mind will let him.

“As far as one more shot to make it to the major leagues, that’s not my goal or whatever at this point in life,” Ford says. “But I do enjoy coaching and I’m still able to [play], and I enjoy it, so I’m just doing what I enjoy right now.”

That Ford is still swinging a bat in organized baseball is a minor miracle, given both his age and his path to this point. A Texas native, football was his calling card until a serious arm injury his freshman year of high school pushed him to baseball. In a pattern that would play out in his professional like, Ford bounced from one college to the next, playing for Texas A&M and a junior college in Oklahoma before winding up at Dallas Baptist. Not that this transient life made him think he was anything other than MLB material. “I played with guys who were drafted, and I felt like I was on at least that level that I could do that,” he says.

From time to time, we’ve discussed what has become of older players in baseball- here’s an account of one with a continuing career.

 

QLE Posted: September 14, 2019 at 12:22 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: independent leagues, lew ford, long island ducks

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. JJ1986 Posted: September 14, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5879116)
Not Ford related, but Ruben Rivera was still playing ball this year. He was last in the majors in 2003. He's almost 46.
   2. Itchy Row Posted: September 14, 2019 at 03:05 PM (#5879124)
Lorenzo Barcelo last pitched in the major leagues in 2002. He pitched for Long Island last year.
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 14, 2019 at 05:53 PM (#5879154)
I have a Strat-O-Matic computer solitaire draft league that uses players from all eras of MLB, NPB, and the Negro Leagues. In my league, Ford was the starting center fielder for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, using his 2005 Twins card. I had absolutely no idea that he was still playing anywhere...
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 14, 2019 at 08:53 PM (#5879198)
He only kept it going until 41 but Brett Tomko was still pitching in AAA as recently as 2014 after spending age 40 pitching in the DR and the Indy league.
   5. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 14, 2019 at 10:29 PM (#5879259)
Julio Franco was also playing in 2014... at age 55. He got 30 PA for the Fort Worth Cats.
   6. Itchy Row Posted: September 15, 2019 at 01:17 AM (#5879299)
Tony Phillips died in 2016, but he’s still playing somewhere.
   7. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: September 15, 2019 at 10:48 AM (#5879321)
The 2005 edition of Baseball Mogul thought that Ford's true talent lay halfway between his 329/402/575 line in 2003 (in 83 PAs) and his 299/381/446 in 2004, and that he had room to grow despite being 28. I always started my OF with him and 18 year old Astro's farmhand Mitch Einertson (who'd hit 303/406/688 in short season ball and who could be relied upon for 500+ career HR in Baseball Mogul. I think of Ford as an on-base monster, and owe many pennants to him.
   8. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: September 15, 2019 at 11:49 AM (#5879331)
Tony Phillips died in 2016,


Whoah, I missed that one. A heart attack at 56. Yikes.
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 15, 2019 at 12:01 PM (#5879335)
18 year old Astro's farmhand Mitch Einertson (who'd hit 303/406/688 in short season ball and who could be relied upon for 500+ career HR in Baseball Mogul.
In retrospect, this might have been a sign that the simulation needed work.

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