Year after year, Lew Ford continues to beat back Father Time as effortlessly as he beats up Atlantic League pitching. At 43, Ford is the ageless wonder, the iron man of the Atlantic League and, with a little more than a week before the playoffs begin, once again one of the most feared hitters in the Ducks lineup.
After a slow start, Ford found the magic stroke in August, hitting .486 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 17 games. He was hitting .311 with four home runs and 34 RBIs in 69 games this season, entering play Wednesday night.
Ford, who played for the Twins from 2003-2007 and the Orioles in 2012, is in his 10th season with the Ducks. Sure, not every one of those seasons has seen Ford play a ton of games with the team – injuries, a trip back to the big leagues in 2012, and a quick stop in the Mexican League in 2015 have taken him away from Central Islip – but the Texas native always comes back.
“He still wants to play, Ducks manager Wally Backman said. “He knows that he’s not going back to the big leagues, but he enjoys putting that uniform on and enjoys competing.”
Ford has lost 25 pounds since the beginning of the season, something he and Backman both mentioned as reasons for his 2019 turnaround. Ford entered the season at 240 pounds and now hits at 215, he said.
“I just felt like I was overweight,” Ford said. “I was a little heavier than I used to be at the beginning of the season. I didn’t start out playing really well. You look and try to do things to make you better on the field. I thought that losing some weight could help me, so I just sort of set a goal to lose some weight and I was able to stick to it.”
Junk food – mainly chips, he said - was the major culprit for Ford’s offseason ballooning.
“It’s like anything,” he said. “You get used to eating badly and you keep doing it. Now, my lifestyles changed. I don’t eat as bad. I don’t eat as much, and it’s easier to do it.”
While Ford hasn’t completely overhauled his diet, he now knows how to manage it, something that can be difficult on minor league road trips to towns that aren’t necessarily known for their dietary options.
“It’s difficult in any league,” Ford said. “You just try to do the best you can with it. It’s not going to be perfect, but I got results. You get results if you work at it.”
On top of eating better, Ford said stretching, exercise, and yoga have helped him take the weight off.
“I just feel a little quicker in my swing and quicker in general because that weight, when you have it in your midsection, it’s more difficult to turn your body with a swing,” Ford said.
The outfielder/DH, who’s also the team’s hitting coach, is leaning towards coming back next season, and playing at 44, but he hasn’t completely decided.
“I really have taken it year to year,” Ford said. “After the way the season is ending up, I still feel like I could do it again. But, that’s only part of it. I got to want to. I have to just think about ‘do I want to do this again,’ as far as playing out there. I feel like, physically, I can probably do it…That’s kind of where I’m at, but I don’t know what’s going to happen this winter. I may decide to do something else or something else may come up.”
One day, that something else could be managing, which Ford said he’d like to do someday ‘in the future.’ Backman, who has taken Ford under his wing in a managerial sense, believes he’d be a good one.
“Lew and I have talked that I want to try and mold him into being the type of manager I am, showing him the things that I know,” Backman said. “We’ve talked many times and I think he’d be good.”