04/18/08 — Ford signs with D-III Amherst

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Ford signs with D-III Amherst

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 18, 2008 3:17 PM

The chance to attend a highly-respected academic institution nestled among the picturesque New England states?

Ryan Ford just couldn't say "no" when he toured the Amherst (Mass.) College campus. And his decision became easier when he spoke with Bill Thurston, one of the nation's most-respected Division III head baseball coaches who is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It's one of the most-beautiful campuses I've ever seen," said Ford. "(Coach Thurston) has written books about baseball and talking with him, you could tell he knows the game. As soon as we met, it was a good connection.

"He made it seem like there will be a spot for me as long as I work hard."

Ford wasted little time once the paperwork arrived at his house. He signed with the Lord Jeffs after getting looks from Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) and Furman. Dartmouth showed interest in Ford when he attended a weekend camp.

The senior shortstop becomes the first collegiate baseball signee during Michael Taylor's tenure as head coach at Wayne Country Day.

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A three-time all-conference perfomer, Ford is proud to set a new standard for players at WCDS. He helped lead the Chargers to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state title, the first in school history, last spring.

"There are always skeptics," said Ford, who earned all-state accolades. "We do so much at Wayne Country Day and we have a good coaching staff. Everyone works harder than they get credit for and the things I learned there are going to help me immensely in college.

"It starts in the classroom with good work ethic and that carries over onto the baseball field."

Thurston took a videotape of Ford and broke it down frame by frame. He evaluated every play in the infield and every swing at the plate, and said that Ford needed to build up his arm strength. Building up his 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame will be important, also.

A three-time all-conference performer, Ford said the school's historical background appealed to him. Amherst played archrival Williams in the first-ever intercollegiate baseball game in 1859.

Nearly two centuries old, the school finished fourth in the 2006-07 United States Sports Academy Director's Cup competition. The Cup recognizes Division III schools for athletic achievement, the only all-sports trophy given to NCAA and NAIA institutions.

Thurston has compiled nearly 800 victories in 44-plus seasons. The Lord Jeffs have recorded 20 consecutive winning seasons, including 20-win campaigns on 19 occasions during that stretch.

"Our headmaster (Todd Anderson) went to school there and he took me on a trip during our sophomore year," said Ford. "The campus caught my eye and it had been on top of my list since then. I've always wanted to go to school up north and I don't know why.

"It's a great school and great opportunity, so there was no way I could say 'no.'"

The 18-year-old son of John and Kim Ford, Ryan plans to obtain a double major, including a master's in psychology. Amherst has an open curriculum with no general college courses, so Ford can pursue his degree once he steps on campus next fall.

"Academics is first on my list," said Ford. "(Athletically) I need to make sure I have all the fundamental things together that you can pass over. There is always something you can improve on and never settle with how you are at any moment in time."