Mike Ford made his Major League Baseball debut last weekend, becoming the seventh player to make it to the sport’s highest level after playing at Princeton for current head coach Scott Bradley.
Ford, who was signed by the New York Yankees after his junior season in 2013, had spent six years bouncing around the organization’s farm system before being called up to the Bronx on April 16.
“For all of us who knew Mike, we knew the opportunity was going to come,” Bradley said. “Just an amazing young man, a great player.”
Before cutting his Princeton career short to play professionally, Ford had enjoyed an outstanding final season, becoming the first Ivy League player in history to win both Player and Pitcher of the Year. He had ranked top-10 in the conference in 10 batting categories, finishing second in home runs with six and hitting .320/.443/.503 overall. He also dominated from the mound, going 6–0 with a 0.98 ERA.
“Some of the scouts were torn between whether they wanted him as a pitcher or a hitter,” Bradley said.
After excelling at the plate in the Cape Cod League that summer, the Yankees signed him as a first baseman. After six years in the minor leagues, Ford was close to starting this season in the majors but was dropped from Spring Training in the last round of cuts. On April 16, the Yankees’ starting first baseman Greg Bird was sent to the 10-day injury list with a torn plantar fascia, and so the team called up Ford from their AAA affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Ford did not appear in his first two games with the Yankees, making his debut on Thursday, April 18, when he went 0–3 with two strikeouts in a 6–1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. His first hit — a double to left-center field — came in the bottom of the second in a 7–6, extra-innings win on Sunday, and he scorched a two-run shot to right for his first home run in a 7–5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
“You kind of realize it’s the same game, just everyone’s better,” said Ford of his quick adjustment in the Yankees clubhouse after the game.
Though Ford’s first stint in the majors may well be ended by an early return for Greg Bird, Bradley has already forewarned him of that.
“I’ve already told him, look, don’t be surprised if not heading back down at some point. It’s the way baseball is. Very few people go up and never come back down again.”
“He’s our seventh guy,” Bradley continued. “We’ve had seven guys get to the big leagues, which is really, I think, a feather in the cap to our program.”