PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays prospect Matt Ford has his father to thank for his love of the game.
Tom Ford, Matt’s dad, has been the associate head coach for the Cornell University Big Red baseball team for the past five seasons after being with the club as head coach for 18 years.
Matt gives full credit to his dad for putting him on the path for a career as a professional baseball player.
“He started me out and as long as I can remember I’ve been playing,” he said on Thursday afternoon in Port Charlotte, Fla. “Growing up playing t-ball and stuff like that, I’ve been playing my whole life.”
Last season with the Gulf Coast League Rays, the rookie-league affiliate, Ford posted a .934 fielding percentage with only 14 errors in 387 innings.
Although Ford’s dad is involved in the game, he has never had him as a coach growing up.
“He was never my official coach, but he always threw me batting practice and things like that,” said Ford, the Hofstra University graduate. “He always just stood by the side and if I needed any help… he would give me some more ground balls and stuff like that.”
Having a university baseball coach in the family is definitely an advantage for the second year player.
In Ford’s home town of Ithaca, N.Y., it was still the dead of winter, but his dad definitely helped him between seasons.
“With the snow up in New York, it was nice because he still had Cornell so I got to work out at their indoor facilities,” Ford said while sitting in an air-conditioned media room. “He threw me batting practice and hit me ground balls and stuff in the off-season.”
Being a two-time defensive player of the year for his college team, the 24-year-old shortstop has always been know for his talent on the field.
Working with some of the hitting coaches during spring training this year has been a great opportunity to work on the hitting aspect of his game.
“There’s a lot of great hitting coaches here that have been working with me,” he said after batting practice at Charlotte Sports Park, the spring training facility of the Rays. “Last year I was in the Gulf Coast League and our hitting coach was Wuarnner Rincones, so I worked with him a lot.”
He hopes to improve his approach at the plate this season.
“I’ve made a couple of changes to my load to help me get some more pop,” Ford said. “I constantly work on it… it’s a part of my game that I want to get better at.”