“That is my dream, I work for it everyday,” Ford said. “I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that.”
Ford played college baseball at Princeton, just a 25-minute drive from his current home at the Arm and Hammer Park in Trenton, New Jersey.
While at Princeton, he showed great playing ability both at bat and on the mound. A first baseman and pitcher, Ford shared time between the two positions in his three seasons there and had a storybook collegiate career, culminating in a perfect 6-0 record with a 0.98 ERA on the mound and a .320 batting average at the plate.
After going undrafted, the Yankees signed the New Jersey native on July 17, 2013, and was assigned to short-season Staten Island.
Four seasons into his career he's proven to be rock-solid steady offensively. More consistent than standout, however, he has kept plugging away and moving along.
“Every level is an adjustment obviously," Ford spoke on his confidence at the plate. "You hit some rough patches but you just gotta remember you are a good hitter, just get back out there and stick to your game plan.”
He's done that throughout his minor league career to date. In fact, he has pretty much walked as many times as he has struck out in his career and that in of itself is a rarity these days.
“The best thing about Mike is he is a really good hitter and has been from day one of being with the Yankees,” Trenton hitting coach Tom Slater said. “When Mike is concentrating on hitting the ball to the middle of the field and keeping his effort level at the right level, and not trying to do too much, Mike hits and he's always hit. He's also got great plate discipline, he knows the strike zone.”
His offensive game has pretty much always been a given though if you talk to the folks entrusted to his development. Slater, however, believes it's the defensive side of the ball where a ton of strides have been made over the years, especially recently.
“What Mike needs to get a lot of credit for is he's really improved his defense since coming into our organization," Slater added. “Antonio Pacheco, who was our defensive coach last year in Tampa and Carlos Mendoza who is our infield coordinator, have really done a lot of good work with Mike on the defensive side of the ball. He's turned himself into a really good first baseman.”
The first baseman came off of the 2016 injury-shortened season that saw him hit .280 with five home runs in 42 games for the Thunder with high hopes for a breakout year in 2017.
“Definitely defensively and lateral mobility defensively,” he said of his biggest goals for the season. “Hitting-wise, sticking with my game plan and being more consistent.”
In the early going of this season, Ford has definitely turned some heads with his play in Trenton thus far, batting .348 with six doubles and two home runs, all while playing very good defense at first base.
Trenton Manager Bobby Mitchell believes in Ford and has high hopes in his escalation out of minor league baseball.
“To me, everyone is looking for hitters," Mitchell said. "It's important he stays focused and puts together a real good season both offensively and defensively. I think he's gonna open some eyes, if they aren't already open, because of his ability to hit primarily, and then work around first and be versatile at that. He's working at it, he is much more agile at first now.”
It isn't easy for undrafted minor league free agents to even reach the big leagues but Mitchell has the utmost confidence in Ford making it to the Major League level. Whether it's with the Yankees or not, he believes Ford has a shot.
“If it's not with the Yankees, which I don't know if it is or not, there are other teams watching all the time,” he said. “I love the kid, I hope he gets an opportunity. If not with the Yankees, then somewhere else.”
“No matter what position you play in the field, you gotta be good at defense as well,” Slater added. “Mike’s hit. He’s always hit since he has been a Yankee at every level, and he's shown good plate discipline at every level; he takes his walks. The fact he has improved his defense makes him that much more valuable of a player.”