HICKORY, N.C.—On paper, it seemed clear that Sunday’s series finale between Hickory and Charleston, the low Class A affiliates for the Rangers and Yankees, respectively, would feature a fine pitching duel. The starters, Akeem Bostick for Hickory and Luis Severino for Charleston, ranked No. 11 and No. 9 in their teams’ systems, were on the bump, and each came with nice credentials..
Instead, the day belonged to Charleston’s Mike Ford. The non-drafted free agent out of Princeton University slugged four home runs, setting the franchise record and becoming just the third player in South Atlantic League history to go deep four times in a game.
“I wasn’t seeing the ball that well in the first two at-bats,” Ford said, “but I kind of just relaxed and let my hands work and it just happened to work out.”
After a walk and a strikeout in his first two trips against the starter Bostick, Ford got his historic afternoon started in the fourth inning, when he lofted a fat changeup from reliever Paul Schwendel over the wall in right field. In the sixth, again against Schwendel, Ford got a fastball and went deep again, this one a moonshot over the left field wall and out of Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium. The second blast was part of back-to-back homers with right fielder Aaron Judge.
An inning later, with Felix Carvallo now on the hill, Ford took a hanging slider and punched it out, again to left field. Then in the ninth, he got a fastball from Cody Kendall and shot it out for his fourth and final home run, once again to left field. Video of that homer is above.
Ford, who was also a pitcher at Princeton, says pro ball has allowed him to hone in on his swing, and the improvements have shown in the numbers. For the season, he’s hitting .318/.416/.522 with eight doubles, eight homers and 25 RBIs.
“I’ve had a lot more time to focus on my swing and everything like that, so that’s helped me a bunch,” he said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff and everything, and it’s been a great pleasure to have those guys help me out. … I came into the year comfortable with some stuff that I worked on in the offseason. Hand adjustments and picking what pitch I want in certain counts, kind of a mindset thing.”
With his record afternoon, Ford not only became the second player to hit four homers in a game this season, but also the second to do it in the last week. Double-A Mobile first baseman Jon Griffin did on May 20. That’s the second time in history that two players have hit four homers in a game in the same week, according to SABR’s website. On May 20, 1988, Pat Garman of the Gastonia Rangers did it. Then, five days later, future all-star third baseman and current Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams did it for the Triple-A Phoenix Firebirds.
If you’re keeping track, Ford’s feat came 26 years to the day after Williams did it. He also joins Lou Gehrig as Ivy-educated, Yankees first basemen do to it.
Ford, a native of Belle Mead, N.J., who also hit four home runs in a game for the Hun School in Princeton, has one semester left to graduate from Princeton University with a degree in history, which he says he’ll complete in the fall after the season. For now, though, he’s happy to have come this far after being passed over in the draft.
“I was undrafted,” he said, “but I’m here now and I’m just trying to go with it.”