Lew Ford has worn the uniform of 17 different teams in his 14-year professional baseball career, but, lately, he's called Long Island home.
Ford, who resides in Central Islip and played parts of six seasons with the Twins and Orioles, is playing in his sixth season with the Ducks. He made his Duck debut in 2009, hitting .330 in 93 games. Ford returned in 2011 and has played in at least part of every season since.
Last season, on his way to becoming the second Atlantic League Player of the Year in Ducks history, Ford hit .347 with 95 RBIs and 15 home runs. He set a league record for games played (140) and hits (189) in a season. It was the first season Ford played over 93 regular season games for the Ducks.
This season, the 38-year-old outfielder/hitting coach is off to another good start. He hit .279 in the first 11 games (43 at-bats), racking up 12 hits, a home run and seven RBIs.
Before the home opener on May 1, Ray Navarrete, the only other Duck to win Atlantic League Player of the Year (2009), presented Ford with his award. Fans also received a replica bronze figurine of Ford.
Ford has a career MLB average of .268 with 35 home runs and 176 RBIs in 519 games (1,795 plate appearances). His best season was 2004, when he hit .299 in 154 games, drove in 72 runs, and cracked 15 home runs.
You've been a Duck for parts of six seasons now. Why do you like it here so much?
I like the Atlantic League. If I'm not in an MLB organization, I feel like this is the highest level of play. That steers me toward this league. There's a lot of positive things about this team. Guys get signed out of here. I like the atmosphere. We have a great ballpark, staff, and front office. They've always been very good to me and made me very comfortable. There's no other place I'd want to play in the league. That's why I ended up coming back here. It's a really high level of baseball.
How did it feel to have Navarrete present you with the Atlantic League Player of the Year award?
It was special. Ray is a former teammate and was a fixture here for a long time. I really appreciated him coming out and presenting me the award. It made it even more special. My dad, Buck, came up from Texas to see it. This is the first time he's been to L.I. It was a big deal. I just tried to take it all in. Did you grab a few of the Lew Ford figurines that they gave away? What did you think of them?
They came out great. I tried to get as many as I could because I had a lot of family and friends back home that were asking me for them . . . It's something you don't see every day. It was a unique, special thing.
You're off to good start, what's been working well for you?
I'm just trying to get the timing down and get back to playing every day. It's early, so having a couple good games helps a lot, as far as your batting average. I've had a couple good games recently and that's made it look a little better.
Did playing in every game last year take a major tole on your body? Can you do that again or will you try and take some days off?
I definitely was a little tired in the end. Then, I played about 60 games in winter ball in the Dominican and Venezuela. I started feeling it there, just the totality of it all. It was good to get a break after all that and rejuvenate ... I'm not going to say I'm going to (play in) 140 games again. I'm just going to play out the season and see how it goes. A lot of things can happen that cause you to not be in. But, if I'm able to play, I'm going to be in the lineup and do the best I can. But, I can't expect to play all 140. A lot of things can happen.
Have you thought about how many more years you want to play? I've thought about it. It's hard to put a timetable on it. The last couple years, I've thought it might be the last year and I've ended up doing well. It's hard to hang it up when you've just won the MVP. At some point, my body will tell me it's time to stop. It hasn't happened yet. I'm not going to rush to think about it.