For most students at Ivy League colleges, the focus is strictly on academics. For a select few, however, there are other priorities.
Ford just completed his first year at the prestigious university in Princeton, New Jersey. Although he applied to many institutions all over the country, in attending Princeton he was staying on familiar territory. Not only is Ford a Jersey boy born and raised, but in living in the town of Belle Mead, he literally grew up in the shadow of Princeton University.
“I got offers from Stanford and Duke, but Princeton seemed like a good fit,” said Ford after a recent game with the Westerners. “I live five minutes away from the campus, so it’s perfect; my mom still does my laundry.”
Ford made a big impact with the Tigers this spring. His versatility in both pitching and playing first base kept him in the line-up for every one of the team’s 47 games. He finished his first college season with a .300 batting average, collecting 51 hits, including three home runs, along with 31 RBI. On the mound he went 5-4 with a 3.95 ERA, throwing four complete games. He walked 17 batters while striking out 38, and didn’t give up a home run all season.
These numbers resulted in Ford being named the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year. He was also second-team All-Ivy at both pitcher and first base, and was named to the College Baseball Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America Team.
Ford acknowledges that playing top-notch baseball while also keeping up with his rigorous course-load was a real challenge.
“The team plays a tough schedule, so balancing that with my studies was no joke,” he said. “But there are a ton of smart people on the team, and they help you out.”
When the school year was over, Ford was hoping to spend his summer on the diamond. When that didn’t come together right away, he took a temp job on Cape Cod. That didn’t last long, however.
“Larry Yurkonis (assistant baseball coach at Keystone College in Pennsylvania and the Westerners hitting coach) is my summer coach and he knew I was looking to play,” said Ford. “He called me on Cape Cod and recruited me for the Westerners.”
The Westerners are Danbury’s club in the prestigious 12-team New England Collegiate Baseball League. Ford has turned out to be just as valuable as a Westerner as he was as a Tiger, serving as both a pitcher and first baseman. He’s gone 1-0 in starting four games on the mound and got his first win on July 1, when he pitched six innings in a 3-1 victory over the Keene (NH) Swamp Bats. At the plate he’s batting at a .324 clip, rapping out 11 hits, three for extra bases, in 34 at-bats, and driving in six runs.
Compiling those kinds of numbers is another step toward Ford’s goal of being drafted by a major league team. Not that he won’t keep up with his studies, though he hasn’t yet declared a major at this point.
“I took core courses this year and probably will next year,” he said. “I’m still undecided, but I’ll probably major in economics or political science.”
Earning that degree is indeed important to Ford, and he’ll work hard for the next three years to get it. Baseball, however, remains his first love and going pro is his ultimate goal.
“I had a great first year and I love it at Princeton,” he said. “But baseball is my main focus. I just want to keep playing.”