By: Jordan Lauterbach (Photo Courtesy of Daniel DeMato)
Lew Ford is an All-Star again, and of all the things he owes the honor to, his health may be chief among them. It isn’t easy staying on the field at 41 years old. Ford, who is in his ninth season with the Ducks, has been been bothered by injuries, namely a balky hamstring, for the last few physically grueling seasons.
But Ford has come out on the other side with his skills intact. He’s played in 64 games this season, only 12 fewer than all last season and four more than he did in all of 2016. Ford’s bat is still feared and, while the average isn’t what it once was, he’s still a major part of the Ducks’ lineup. Ford is hitting .276 with four home runs and 41 RBIs.
Those numbers were good enough to send him to the Atlantic League All-Star Game Wednesday night in Central Islip. It will be Ford’s third appearance in the game and first at Bethpage Ballpark, which last hosted the independent league’s version of the midsummer classic in 2010.
“It’s great,” said Ford, who is also the Ducks’ hitting coach. “I was going as a coach already, but I am much more excited to go as a player and be a part of that, too. I have a lot of friends here, family, and hometown fans. It’s going to be great playing in front of them.”
Ford was one of seven Ducks selected. Former Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin, ex-Oriole David Washington and former Red Ramon Cabrera round out the hometown position players. Pitchers Jake Fisher, Wander Perez and Bennett Parry, who will start for the Liberty Division, also were picked.
“I’m excited,” said Parry, who threw seven shutout innings in the Ducks’ 5-3 victory over the Sugar Land Skeeters on Sunday. “We’re going to see how I bounce back. It’s going to be a short turnaround to pitch again, but it’s definitely going to be cool to be part of it. It’s my first All-Star game, and it being on Long Island is definitely a cool part. I don’t have to go anywhere and I get to play in my home ballpark.”
Ford and Washington will participate in the home run derby before the game. Washington’s nine homers tie him for fifth in the league. Lancaster’s Blake Gailen, who leads the league with 14, is the favorite. Although Washington has struggled this season — hitting .218 with a league-high 85 strikeouts — he has hit some mammoth home runs and is a threat to turn heads whenever he steps into the batter’s box.
“I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and in the air,” Washington said. “You want that to be a home run, but I try to keep it as simple as possible. You can’t control if the ball goes out of the park, but you can control if you make hard contact. That’s what I’m looking for.”
The Ducks’ Kevin Baez will manage the Liberty Division for the third time in the All-Star Game and for the first time at Bethpage Ballpark.
“This is a special place,” Baez said. “I believe we have the greatest fans here. It’s a great place to have it. To be the manager, I’m honored and privileged. It’s going to be a special day.”