Legends outfielder Ford picked one Kentucky stop over another

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 1, 2014 

The Dream started early for Fred Ford.

"I remember the day my mom signed me up for baseball," the Lexington Legends left fielder said before Thursday's doubleheader against Lakewood. "She picked me up from day care and told me. I was really excited."

Ford guesses he was about 5 years old or so.

"I couldn't wait," he said. "I would wear my uniform around the house. Even on days that we didn't have games, I would go out in the yard with my uniform on and play."

The diaper dandy grew into quite the player in O'Fallon, Mo., near St. Louis.

As a junior, he led Fort Zumwalt South High School to the Missouri Class 4A state championship.

From there, Ford moved to Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo., reaching the National Junior College World Series in 2011 and 2012.

"That might have been one of the better decisions I've made in my life so far," Ford said. "I learned more in those two years playing for Coach (Sam) Carel than I had ever learned up until that point. That guy, he's a brilliant coach. He gets the most out of his players, makes sure you play the game the right way — play hard."

Ford earned All-America and Region Player of the Year honors in 2012, when he hit .430 with 16 homers, 75 RBI and 32 stolen bases.

He then signed to play for Western Kentucky University.

"Man, I was excited. They were some great people, some genuine people to work with," Ford said. "If you would have asked me two or three weeks before the draft, I was geared up and ready to go to Western. But the draft came along and Kansas City called my name (in the seventh round) and that door opened up, so I decided to step through it."

So instead of Bowling Green, Ky., Ford spent the rest of the 2012 season playing for the Burlington (N.C.) Royals. He finished among the Appalachian League top 10 in home runs, walks, games, total bases, OPS and slugging.

The Royals moved him up to Lexington last year, where he tied Bubba Starling for the team lead in home runs (13). But he hit .193 over 126 games and wound up repeating this year in Lexington.

"There's always the drive to get closer to playing in the big leagues, ... playing in Kansas City," said Ford, who stands 6-foot-5. "But at the same time I think the Kansas City Royals, they've got a program in place for every guy in that clubhouse and every guy above me, below me. They know what they're doing.

"I've already gained so much knowledge coming back and spending more time with Buck (Manager Brian Buchanan) and Hubby (bench coach Glenn Hubbard) and (hitting coach Abraham) Nunez and all those guys. They're top-notch guys. The more time I can spend around them and pick things from them that I can carry over to the next level for years and years to come, that's a blessing in disguise."

Entering play Thursday, Ford is Lexington's leading run producer, tied for fifth in the South Atlantic League with 18 RBI, and is batting .260.

"He's made some adjustments this last year," Buchanan said. "He was in this league last year and he struggled a little bit. But he seems to be staying through the ball more. ... He's really made some good strides this last year."

As for the dream, it's still alive.

Said Ford: "I'm an average 22-year-old playing baseball for a living and chasing his childhood dream."

■ Lakewood swept Thursday's pair of seven-inning games.

Deivi Grullon's two-run homer sparked Lakewood to a 3-1 victory in the opener.

Winning pitcher Drew Anderson gave up a run in 52⁄3 innings, matching his career high of seven strikeouts.

Michael Antonio drove in Lexington's lone run with a sixth-inning single. Ford went 1-for-3 and threw out a runner at home.

Ford belted a two-run homer in the nightcap, but it wasn't enough to keep Lakewood from scoring a 10-5 victory.

Ramon Torres had four of the Legends' 10 hits.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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