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Mike Ford's Fleet Feet Spark Bats Streak

Mike Ford has gotten off to a solid start in the middle of the Louisville lineup. (Cam Anderson/Louisville Bats)
April 26, 2024

On a blistery cold night in Des Moines, Iowa with the wind chill bringing the temperature down into the low 40s, the Louisville Bats were looking for a catalyst. Leading into a doubleheader at Principal Park on Friday, April 19, veteran first baseman Mike Ford had played in 1,040 professional

On a blistery cold night in Des Moines, Iowa with the wind chill bringing the temperature down into the low 40s, the Louisville Bats were looking for a catalyst.

Leading into a doubleheader at Principal Park on Friday, April 19, veteran first baseman Mike Ford had played in 1,040 professional baseball games. In a career that began in 2013 and included parts of five Major League seasons, he recorded just eight stolen bases.

But standing on second base in the Iowa wind, Ford noticed an opportunity to make a run for it, literally.

“Nobody was paying any attention to me at second. I thought if I had a chance I was going to go just for fun and see if I could still do it,” Ford said. “I saw the right look, nobody was holding me on, and the pitcher wasn’t paying attention. I just said ‘screw it’ and went for it.”

Iowa starter Chris Kachmar didn’t know what hit him, as by the time he realized what was happening, Ford had stolen third base without a throw for his first steal with Louisville. In the dugout, his Bats teammates were thrilled. On the field, P.J Higgins then singled to left, scoring Ford as the Bats went on to win the game 4-1 and sweep the doubleheader.

“It wasn’t even close. He made it in there standing up. Everyone in the dugout obviously went crazy and Mike was playing it up pretty well,” Bats Manager Pat Kelly said.

The fun, coupled with the ability to help his team, creates the snapshot of the player Ford is today. While the Triple-A season can be a grind with everyone so close to their goal of playing Major League Baseball, Ford knows that the right attitude is just as important to get the most out of each day.

“It’s the most important thing,” Ford said about keeping spirits high. “Weather is going to change, we’re going to face different arms, and all the conditions are going to change. But just smiling and having a good time, makes each day a little better.”

“It’s huge. Especially for players like him, guys that have been up and down between Triple-A and the big leagues,” Kelly added. “It’s important for those guys to have that attitude because it’s very easy to be a Debby Downer all the time. Instead, we have a guy that’s obviously having a lot of fun.”

Mike Ford's baserunning prowess has been a pleasant surprsie to start the year.Anna Rouch/Louisville Bats

Joining the Bats in the first place was the culmination of an interesting spring for Ford, who hit .455 for the Cincinnati Reds in 10 Cactus League games.

He wasn’t on the Major League roster to start the season, so he was released by the Reds on March 24. After testing the open market, he decided to return to the Reds organization and begin the season with Louisville, signing a new contract on March 29.

“There really wasn’t much out there on the market. I liked the guys a lot in camp, I liked the staff, so I thought this would be a good place to be,” Ford said. “It’s a little strange coming back. But I knew a lot of the guys so that made it a bit easier.”

Once in Louisville, Ford’s play has been stellar to start the 2024 season. In his first 22 games for the Bats, the Princeton alum is hitting .301 with six home runs, 14 RBI, and a .566 slugging percentage. Entering play on April 26, Ford is on a 16-game on-base streak, the longest streak by a Bat through the season’s first month. Including the doubleheader sweep in Iowa, the Bats are 5-2 since Ford recorded his first steal.

“It was just coming back to reality. I was a little unhappy with the circumstances coming back originally. A lot of people go through that at times,” Ford said. “It came back to playing where I’m at right now, enjoying the day, enjoying the guys, and enjoying the parts of the game that make this fun for me and that’s translated to the field.”

“He’s got a great approach at the plate. He knows exactly what he wants to do. He’s got a real good read on pitchers, how they’re going to pitch him, which I think is great for our young guys to understand,” Kelly said. “He’s such a good hitter. He gets on base, and he enjoys being on base. That’s great for our young players to see.”

Another thing all the players would see was Ford being bestowed a souvenir for his speed in Iowa. Following the doubleheader sweep, Kelly asked the Iowa Cubs groundskeeper if there was an extra base lying around. Eventually, Kelly was able to acquire the base Ford had stolen a couple hours earlier, and he had a plan for what to do with it.

“I went into the clubhouse and presented it to him in front of everybody and they all went crazy,” Kelly said. “The best part was that he was so excited about getting the base. I thought it was awesome. These are the kind of things you don’t plan, but they are great for team building.”

“It was pretty funny when he got the base and brought it into the locker room. I guess the grounds crew knew how rare it was and they were willing to give it up,” Ford said. “It was great to lighten the mood.”

Ford is planning on having his teammates sign the base before displaying it in his new house.

Less than a week later on April 25, Ford doubled his stolen base total by swiping second in the bottom of the first inning against Nashville at Louisville Slugger Field. The pair of stolen bases put him into double digits for his career and have tied his career-high, most recently set last year.

While Ford’s chances of winning a stolen base title appear slim, he looks to be in the heart of the Louisville lineup each night working toward his ultimate goal of returning to the big leagues.