The Yankees were trailing Boston in the seventh inning Wednesday night at the Stadium, and Mike Ford thought he might get the chance to pinch hit and see the dream come true with his major-league debut.
“I noticed my hand shaking a little bit,” he said. “I was like, ‘Calm down. It’s the same game.’ ”
Ford didn’t end up being used as the Yankees staged the game-deciding rally, but he heard some good news that night. Finally, at the age of 26 and after 561 minor-league games across seven seasons, the Yankees fan from Belle Mead, New Jersey, and former Princeton star would be making that debut Thursday night in the Bronx against the Royals.
Aaron Boone batted him seventh, using him as the DH. With Ford’s mom, dad and some friends on hand, he went 0-for-3 with a walk in the Yankees’ 6-1 loss. He struck out looking to end the game.
“It was just awesome,” Ford said of that first at-bat, a fly to right-center. “I actually wasn’t very nervous. I was just kind of ready for the moment.”
The manager knew it would be a good night for Ford no matter what.
“It’s something now that you can never take away from somebody, that you’re a big-league ballplayer,” Boone said.
Greg Bird became No. 12 on the Yankees’ injured list Tuesday, so the lefthanded-hitting Ford was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The first baseman was batting .410 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 10 games.
“I tried to use more of the field from spring training,” Ford said in the clubhouse before the game.
He had been to Yankee Stadium, new and old, as a fan. Now he was working here.
“It’s the team I grew up watching all the time,” Ford said. “Just to be in the locker room and have the opportunity is pretty nuts. An awesome opportunity.”
Ford took the long way to the Bronx.
Back in his Princeton days, he studied history and made history. In 2013, Ford became the first to win Ivy League player and pitcher of the year in the same season, but he went undrafted after that junior year. The Yankees ended up signing him as a free agent.
Seattle took him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2017, then returned him near the end of spring training. “That was tough,” Ford said. “I think I was like 12 hours from making the team.”
His numbers didn’t jump off the page before this season. The career .271 hitter in the minors didn’t make MLB Pipeline’s list of the Yankees’ top 30 prospects. He just hopes he can make an impression now.
“It’s a lot of work to get here and it’s even more work to stay,” Ford said. “I’m a pretty confident hitter in the box. If I can just bring that aspect here, I can help the team win and showcase what I can do.”