The careers of baseball players almost always involve multiple stops as they progress from Class A or Double-A ball with the dream of reaching the majors.
But for Baltimore Orioles outfielder Lew Ford, the road is one far, far less traveled as he tried to get back to The Show.
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The former Long Island Duck went from the Midwest to the Far East, to the Northeast, South and Mexico over the past five years. He made his first major-league start since the end of the 2007 season Sunday and was in leftfield for the Orioles Monday night at the Stadium.
"I don't think I'll have that feeling like I did [Sunday] again," Ford said. "That was a great feeling to get back up here and I enjoyed it a lot."
As time wore on, the idea of Ford, who played with the Minnesota Twins from 2003-07 and hit .299 with 15 home runs and 72 RBIs in 2004, ever returning to the majors became more and more of a pipe dream.
"Did I ever think I was going to get back here? No," said Ford, who went 0-for-4 last night and turns 36 in two weeks. "It was such a long shot."
After the 2007 season, Ford played for the Hanshin Tigers in Nishinomiya, Japan, in 2008, the Ducks in '09 with a short appearance for the Cincinnati Reds' Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, then Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2010 before returning to the Ducks for 2011 and the start of this season. He hit .326 with 150 runs scored, 24 home runs and 114 RBIs in 184 games with the Ducks and was signed by the Orioles on May 17.
"I didn't even know what I was missing, I don't think, when I got back here," said Ford, who lived in Islip Terrace while with the Ducks. "I'm honored to be up here playing with these guys. I enjoy watching them play. This is the best of the best here. You're away from it for a while. This kind of opened my eyes again.
"This is the ultimate goal of any baseball player. You want to be up here and be competing against the best. There's nothing else even close to it."