Long Island Ducks hitting coach Lew Ford hits some fly...

Long Island Ducks hitting coach Lew Ford hits some fly balls to the position players trying out for the team on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at Central Islip. Credit: George A Faella

People want to know why he’s still playing and Lew Ford doesn’t really have a specific answer. He just likes it, he guesses. And that’s enough for the 45-year old Ducks all-time hits leader who began his 12th season in Central Islip Friday night, albeit on the disabled list.

“I guess I feel around my age,” Ford said of being 45.  “It’s not something I think about.”

Ford, who is also the Ducks hitting coach, was in uniform for the team’s opener against the York Revolution Friday night at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip, but is day-to-day with a lower extremity injury, the Ducks said.

Ford broke the Ducks’ franchise hits record late last season and with 968 is 129 away from breaking former Duck Bryant Nelson’s all-time Atlantic League hits record of 1,096.

To break the record this year, Ford would need to have one of his most productive seasons in years, obviously not something helped by the early DL stint. He had 47 hits in 58 games last season and 90 hits in 77 games in 2019 (there was no Atlantic League baseball in 2020, because of  pandemic). 

But the level of production needed to reach the status of all-time hits king isn’t in the incredibly distant past. In 2018, Ford had 137 hits in 123 games.

Still, breaking the record this season may be a stretch.

“I don’t think so,” Ford said last week of his record-breaking chances in 2022. “I don’t know how much I’m going to play.…I’m not really setting [the record] as a goal. If something like that happens, that’s great.”

So if he’s not in it for the hits crown – at least right now – why did Ford come back? He has openly flirted with retirement for years, playing the last handful of seasons with the idea that it would be his last. But yet, here he is again, ready to play as soon as the injury issue fades. Before the injury, Ducks manager Wally Backman said he expected Ford to play more this year than he did last. And that still may be a possibility.   

“I definitely wanted to come back and coach,” said Ford, who is entering his eighth year as a player/coach. “I thought about the playing part of it and thought, why not? I still feel like I could do it and I want to do it.”

Ford, a six-season major-leaguer veteran who last played for the Orioles in 2012, slashed .311/.348/.437  last season. He hit three home runs and had 31 RBIs. He didn’t play much, especially in the first half, but was still productive when he did get at-bats.

Ford is 70 RBIs, 94 runs, and 33 doubles away from breaking Ray Navarrete’s franchise records in those categories. He’s 79 games played away from breaking Dan Lyons’ team record.

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