NWL notes: Padres' Ford finds perspective

Dust Devils righty applying lessons, work ethic he leaned at Yale

Tri-City's Chasen Ford has struck out 12 batters and walked three in 13 innings out of the bullpen. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Billy Gates / Special to MiLB.com | July 14, 2017 11:30 AM ET

The way Chasen Ford sees it, he's just a baseball player who was fortunate enough to attend an Ivy League school.

A right-handed reliever for the Tri-City Dust Devils, Ford was a 27th-round pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 Draft, and after a rocky first Minor League season, he's rounding into form thanks to what he learned at Yale University.

"Last year, I'd get hit a little bit and then I'd try to control things I couldn't," Ford said. "I wanted to play pro ball my whole life, and I was finally getting the chance to do that and I was a bit nervous."

This season, Ford has been one of the dependable bullpen arms for the Padres affiliate, starting the season with four scoreless appearances. Though he hit a rough patch Wednesday against Everett, allowing five runs in one inning, he's struck out 12 batters in 13 frames while walking three. His ERA ballooned from 3.75 to 6.92, but it's still better than what he did last season, and otherwise he has been solid.

Ford said he's changed his approach mentally, and now he's solely worried about what he does before the ball leaves his hand. The way he prepares for games, what he does in the bullpen and his workouts have all been adjusted, and while he undoubtedly has what it takes between his ears to figure all of that out, a little help from his college coach went a long way.

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Yale's John Stuper, a former Major League pitcher and 25-year head coach for the Bulldogs, reached out to Ford with a text message after his first season with Tri-City, where he posted a 7.31 ERA over 13 appearances and just didn't feel right. Also the Bulldogs' pitching coach, Stuper offered advice that resonated with Ford like a philosophical turn of phrase, although the message was pretty simple.

"He gave me context," Ford said. "He told me that one season doesn't define who you are, and guys struggle starting out all the time."

It's that kind of advice, brief yet meaningful, Ford said was the norm during three years at Yale. Ford didn't graduate before he left to begin his baseball career, but he plans on finishing his degree in environmental engineering over the next few offseasons. Yale doesn't offer much in the way of online classes or remote learning, so he said he will go back to campus in New Haven, Connecticut, to chip away at the two semesters he has left.

Life as a student-athlete at Yale is hectic, to say the least. Ford said it helped shape him -- getting up at 7 a.m. to lift, classes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then practice from 3-6 p.m. and more discussion groups and homework until 10 p.m. And, of course, meals have to be in there somewhere, sleep as well, and the circle of life for an athlete just keeps rolling.

"The workload at Yale is probably just as much as any other college, but the expectations on you are where the most hours are spent," Ford said. "You're competing with everyone else, the students who aren't playing sports and trying to stay on par with them. It's the Ivy League, so it's tough and rigorous."

It was all worth it for Ford, who went across the country from Lake Forest, California, to attend Yale and play for Coach Stuper. When Ford saw his Bulldogs draw national No. 1 seed Oregon State in the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament this year, he was bursting with pride.

With wins over Nebraska and rival Holy Cross twice, along with playing the Beavers tough in two games, Ford wasn't just happy for his former teammates and coach, but for how far the program has come.

"The win over Nebraska kind of put us on the map," Ford said. "A win over the Big 12 champion was huge, and Stuper worked really hard with those guys. I couldn't have been prouder."

In brief

Cycle Sanchez: On the night he was tagged as Salem-Keizer's "Beer Batter" -- meaning if he struck out, all the fans would be treated to special discounts on suds -- Hillsboro's Yan Sanchez obliged with one strikeout but then hit for the Hops' first-ever cycle July 5. His huge performance was part of an overall historic night for the Hops, who set a franchise record with 25 hits in a 17-2 win over the Volcanoes. Sanchez singled in the first, homered in the third, tripled in the seventh and finished the feat with a double in the eighth.

Cool Canadians: Vancouver took over first place in the NWL North Division with a six-game winning streak to move to 16-7, but they've dropped their last four games. At 16-11, they lead the division by two games over the Dust Devils going into Thursday's play. They have the best record in the NWL and can win a first-half pennant for the first time in team history. The first half ends July 23.

Wild, wild South: The NWL South Division is bananas. Boise and Eugene were tied for first at 15-12 going into Thursday's play, and Hillsboro was a game out with Salem-Keizer three games back with 11 games left in the first half. The winner of the first half is guaranteed a spot in the divisional playoff series at the end of the season, and it might come down to the final game to decide who punches their playoff ticket first.

Billy Gates is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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