September 2, 2010
Darren Ford's Major League debut
I've written about San Francisco's Darren Ford several times, including this summer. The Vineland, N.J., native has had a roller coaster ride over the last two years. He was traded from Milwaukee to the Giants as part of the Ray Durham deal, was apparently robbed at gunpoint, had a stellar spring training with the Giants and won essentially the MVP award of the spring, was charged with creating false reports from that robbery and was then called up on Wednesday night from Double-A Richmond.
Last night (or early this morning - depending on where you live), Ford scored the winning run in the eighth inning when he came in as pinch runner. He was called up for his speed and he used to get around the bases.
He doesn't have too many baseball cards. He was included in 2008 Bowman and has some chrome cards as well, just no autos in that set. His only autograph cards are in 2008 Tristar PROjections.
This summer, Ford came through Trenton with his team and I sat down to speak with him.
Here's that article:
Darren Ford put together a football highlight tape last year when he struggled and considered quitting baseball.
He planned to play college football, going back to the sport he loved most.
However, as the 2004 Vineland High School graduate considered the move, he began playing better for the San Francisco Giants' single-A advanced team, the San Jose Giants.
Perhaps this would work after all.
"I prayed and played," Ford, 24, said Friday from Waterfront Park in Trenton, where the double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels are playing a three-game series against the Trenton Thunder (Yankees).
"I was hitting left-handed and I just couldn't do it. I went back to righty and ended up hitting something like .350 (for the rest of the season). It taught me that you're going to fail and you can't get down on yourself."
After hitting just .200 with 54 strikeouts in the first 42 games of last season, Ford ended his experiment of trying to bat from the left side. His confidence was down and he questioned his skills.
That's when he thought about pursuing college football. He was one of the top running backs in New Jersey while he was in high school.
But once Ford went back to hitting strictly righty, his game and mindset improved.
Ford finished last year hitting .300 with 35 stolen bases and earned a spot on the Giants' 40-man roster, which means he could be called up to the major leagues at any point this season. Ford is one of the fastest players in the Giants' system, an asset that MLB teams are looking for more and more in prospects.
However, Ford has struggled this season. He is batting .233 after going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 5-4 loss to Trenton on Saturday.
Ford, who is normally a leadoff hitter, also batted ninth Friday. He had an RBI single, a walk and two stolen bases in Richmond's 2-1 win over Trenton on Friday.
Ford has 10 doubles, two triples, a home run, 14 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 50 games.
"Right now, he's having a little trouble with the breaking ball and staying on that pitch," Richmond manager Andy Skeels said. "That's something we work on every day. Some days are real good, other days are not. That's why you're in the minor leagues."
If Ford went through this type of slump two years ago, he admits he probably wouldn't have handled it well.
"I probably would have cried," said Ford, the Milwaukee Brewers' 18th-round draft pick in 2004. He was traded to San Francisco in 2008 in a multi-player deal.
Life is different for Ford, though. He feels he's matured over the last couple of years and learned how to handle tough situations.
Whenever he's frustrated by baseball, he looks at major-league players and remembers they have been where he is. They struggle, too.
"(Last year), I didn't think I belonged in the game," Ford said. "I didn't know what to do or how to carry myself. Once I sat back and I saw major leaguers go through it, it got better. It's all mental. It's all about how you carry yourself and how you're going to get out of (the slump)."
The one thing Ford has working for him is his speed. He averaged 50.2 stolen bases over the first five years in professional baseball and has three seasons where he stole 60 or more bases.
He has the kind of speed that not only helps on the base paths, but defensively as well. As a centerfielder, he doesn't need to play deep because he can cover a lot of ground. By playing so shallow, Ford is able to limit hits to center field.
"Speed is his main tool," Skeels said. "He's got game-changing speed, world-class speed -- however you want to categorize it. He's one of the fastest guys in professional baseball and a strong little guy, too."
Ford thinks he can make it to the big leagues, otherwise he wouldn't still be playing baseball. But at 24, he is becoming an older prospect.
The time needs to come soon.
"I say about the time I am 25 or 26, I want to be in the big leagues," Ford said. "I have to do what I can. I just have to go out there and play."