NEW BRITAIN - Darren Ford has proven he has proven he can do a little bit of everything at the top of the order.
The former major leaguer is making his presence known in his first season with the New Britain Bees. With just a month left in the season, Ford is in the top-five of Bees hitters in batting average (.274), home runs (7), RBI (34) and hits (104).
“My role is to get on base for the guys behind me to drive me in,” Ford said. “They’ve proven that they can drive me in at any time. So if I just focus on getting on base, they’ll do the rest.”
Ford has had a bit of an up-and-down season in New Britain. In the second-half alone, his batting average has been as high as .287 on July 7, but also as low as .267 on July 19.
“That’s just the game of baseball,” Ford said. “Teams start to figure things out a little bit on how to pitch to you. So you just try to work on your weaknesses every day. I just try to keep the same approach every day, good game or bad. I just try to stay on an even keel and ride it out. Baseball is roller coaster, so you just try to ride it out.”
Ford has played for a number of different organizations at every level of baseball, including for the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2011. He said his teammates have been the biggest influence in playing in New Britain this season.
“I love it,” Ford said of playing with the Bees. “I feel like we have the best team in the league. Just coming out here every day, going to war with these guys - it’s fun. And the team has a great chemistry with guys who are all pulling for each other. We always want each other to do good and are always helping each other after every at-bat. We are all together as one.”
Ford believes the biggest factor in the success and camaraderie in the dugout is the man at the helm, manager Wally Backman.
“I love playing for [Backman],” Ford said. “He gave me an opportunity to play this year and I’m grateful for that. Playing for a manager like Wally, you want to go out and give it your all, because he’s going to give you his all.”
Backman knows the impact Ford has on the game. But it isn’t what Ford does on the field that impresses the manager, but what he brings mentally.
“Ford is a grinder,” Backman said. “He’s a big speed guy for us and he’s our only true centerfielder. He will not let you take him out of the game. God knows, he needs a rest, but of course his next rest won’t be until the next Monday off. It’s tough because he won’t take himself out of the game. He plays hard. He fights. He does everything it takes to try to win games. With him at the top of the order, he battles for us and he makes a big difference with his legs. He’s that one guy in our lineup that can really make things happen when he gets on base.”
As the Bees go for a playoff run, success at the top of the lineup from Ford will be key. The centerfielder wouldn’t set any personal goals, other than doing whatever he can to help the team.
“I just want to be the best leadoff man I can for the team,” Ford said. “I’m staying in the moment and just worried about one game at a time, one pitch at a time. And hopefully things will work out for everybody.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org