Mariners Notebook: Top prospect Harry Ford in line for eventful spring

Feb 20, 2023, 3:22 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm
Mariners Harry Ford...
Harry Ford of Great Britain reacts after a home run on Sept. 20 in Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Sebastian Widmann/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

As the Mariners take the practice field Tuesday in Arizona for their first full squad workout of 2023 spring training, top prospect Harry Ford will say goodbye to his teens.

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Yes, Tuesday is Harry Ford’s 20th birthday. And from talking to him the day before, you get the impression that between being in his first big league camp and the opportunity to represent Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic, every day this spring is his birthday.

“I mean, honestly, it just doesn’t feel real,” he said. “I’m already every day coming in here just like, ‘Whoa, I’m in big league camp.’ Like, I can’t believe it. And then to think that I’m going to be playing in the WBC in Phoenix? Against, like, Team USA, Mexico, all those teams? I mean, it really doesn’t feel real yet.”

Ford did get the experience of being a minor league call-up for a couple of Cactus League games last year, but that was the smallest of previews of actually being an invited player to major league camp. This year he is lockering in the big clubhouse. He’s catching bullpens alongside major league catchers. He’s putting in the double time required of all catchers, taking care of the pitchers while getting his own work done, as well.

Catchers’ schedules are much more complex than the position players or pitchers, their days longer. This is something Ford considered before reporting to Peoria and planned accordingly, or so he thought, figuring that with the first item on the published schedule being a team meeting at 9 am he could get his workout in at 7.

“First day I walk in at 7 and Cal (Raleigh), Murph (Tom Murphy)… like five catchers are there full sweat, working out. In the morning,” Ford said. “I’m just like, ‘Oh, this is how it’s going to be. OK. I’ve got to get back.’ I cleaned it up the next day.”

It was a learning experience Ford appreciated. This is what a first big league camp is all about. It is clear he understands where he is at, and that for a 20-year-old catcher with just one full year of professional experience there is much to be learned.

“There’s there’s nothing better than just seeing the guys who do it the best at a young age,” he said. “I’m really thankful to just be in this position where I get to see guys every day, be around and just see what it looks like, to be where all of us want to be. For me being this young, I just think it’s like my mind still developing. This is only my second full year in pro ball and just already learning what’s the right thing versus trying to figure everything out on my own? I think it’s going to it’s a big game changer.”

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In early March, Ford, an Atlanta native whose parents were both born and raised in Great Britain, will take some of his new knowledge and experience to try and help Great Britain in the WBC. Team Great Britain takes on Team USA and Team Canada back-to-back March 11 and 12, and yes, Ford has been thinking about calling pitches against Mike Trout and others.

“Oh my god,” he answered, eyes wide, when asked about what he could see. “I mean, it’s a crazy feeling knowing that’s going to happen for me. The craziest one is knowing that Freddie Freeman is going to be there because I was always a Braves fan and just watched him since the first time I went to spring training, I was like 8 years old and he was a rookie, and he signed my ball and everything. It is crazy because I’m like, dang. Like, I’m literally like almost the same age, like same spot as him now, and still going to be playing against him in a World Baseball Classic and stuff. It’s mind blowing.”

It will be a big moment for his family, much of whom still live in England, as well.

“Oh, man, my dad, this is a big one,” he said of getting to represent Great Britain. “My mom’s British too, but my dad is like really, really British. He still has it in his accent and everything. For him, it was like it was one of the best things ever just because he’s always been at every single one my baseball games since I started. And being able to just represent his country and be one of the first Great Britain teams to make it this far too has really meant the world to him. So he’s probably the most excited out of all of us.”

Invaluable experience, both in and out of camp for Ford this spring.

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Mariners notes

• Pending a physical the Mariners are expected to add Kean Wong, brother of new second baseman Kolten Wong, on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training in the coming days. Kean Wong, 27, was a fourth-round pick of the Rays out of high school in 2013. He has appeared in 39 MLB games – six with Tampa Bay in 2019, and 33 total with the Angels in 2019 and 2021. A left-handed hitter like his brother, Kean has experience playing second base, third base and the corner outfield spots in the big leagues, plus every other position besides pitcher and catcher in the minors.

• Monday in Mariners manager Scott Servais’ morning media session, he noted the plan was to take things slow with Dylan Moore early in spring training. Moore is coming off a December core surgery and the team will need to see where he is with lateral movements and running before he is a full-go. Moore is expected to get most of his work in 2023 in the infield platooning with Kolten Wong at second base and spelling J.P. Crawford at shortstop. He is a critical part of the roster with depth at shortstop behind him limited to Jose Caballero and Mason McCoy.

• For those who have been asking – and there have been a lot of you – different WBC teams have different report dates, with most players having to leave the MLB teams’ camps March 3-5.

• With Julio Rodríguez to join Team Dominican Republic, Sam Haggerty is scheduled to get some time in center field for the Mariners while he is away.

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