YORK, Pennsylvania — Lew Ford stood next to an old dusty pipe late Friday night here at PeoplesBank Park. He had been in similar places before. In fact, most of his adult life has been spent in baseball stadiums, whether it be on the field at Yankee Stadium, the confines of Venezuelan winter ball, or standing outside the clubhouse, trying to digest another Ducks season without a championship.
Although he hasn’t made up his mind, there is a very real possibility that Ford has played his last professional game, and a Game 3 loss in the Atlantic League Championship Series that sealed a York sweep over the Ducks wasn’t exactly the way he wanted his playing career to end. But, he remained conscious that it just might be the way it has to go.
Baseball can’t give everyone a happy ending, and Ford knows that.
“I thought about it after the last out was made and York won,” Ford said. “I thought about ‘is this my last time as a player in a baseball game?’ I didn’t want it to end like that. That was my first thought. We’ll see what happens next year. But, I’m not retiring right now.”
Ford played well in the playoffs and showed that he still can be a major part of the Ducks lineup, whatever it might look like next season. He hit .250 with five RBIs in seven playoff games (32 at-bats). After battling a hamstring injury for most of last season, Ford rejoined the Ducks in late May after taking some time off to try and recuperate from the injury. He hit .269 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 76 regular season games.
Ford played parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues with the Twins and Orioles.
Ford said he’s going to spend time training with his college-aged son and continue to experience the game as an instructor in the offseason.
“I’ll be around the game and I’ll see where I’m at come March or April next year,” Ford said. “Things change, but as of this moment, I’d like to keep playing. We’ll see what happens between now and the beginning of next year.”
Next year is almost always an impossible thing to size up in the Atlantic League. Predicting the construction of the Ducks roster for 2018 is a fruitless endeavor. Whether or not each player comes back next season is a question of individual circumstance. Does a major-league team want to take a chance on someone? Will an overseas league offer a player a more lucrative opportunity? Will a living situation change and make playing baseball in Central Islip for six months less feasible? These are all questions that could be asked, but answers that often don’t reveal themselves until April.
“If bigger or better opportunities come, I’ll probably take those,” reliever Rob Rogers, an Islip native, said before Friday’s Game 3 loss. “But, I would not mind playing for the Ducks at all. I had a great time and all the help I’ve gotten here has been good for my career.”