MESA – Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Harry Ford never realized there was a British baseball team.
“I didn’t know there was a Team GB,” Ford said of the Great Britain program. “My dad always joked about it because he’s really British.”
Ford’s parents were both born in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States, but rather than playing his parents’ sports of cricket and soccer growing up, he excelled as a catcher in baseball. He was voted the Greater Atlanta Player of the Year in his senior year at Kennesaw’s North Cobb High School, and was selected with the 12th pick of the 2021 MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners.
Ford has progressed quickly in the Mariners’ system and currently is ranked as the 39th-best prospect on MLB’s Top 100 prospect list. In 241 minor league games at three levels, Ford has hit .267 with 29 home runs, and 142 RBI.
The 20-year-old was recently selected to play in the Arizona Fall League, where organizations send their best prospects.
However, it’s his international achievements that have garnered him the most fame, especially since they were an accident.
Brad Marcelino, the Mariners’ Triple A hitting coach, was a mainstay for Team GB from 1999-2013 as a player, and has been helping coach Team GB since 2017.
A chance conversation at spring training led to Ford joining the Team GB roster in 2022 for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, and he’s never looked back.
“It’s been amazing,” Ford said. “It’s some of the most fun baseball I’ve played, and it’s always awesome to get to be around those guys and represent our heritage.”
Ford was an instant star. He hit three home runs in three games in qualification, and drove in three runs in the clinching 10-9 win against Spain that sent Team GB to its first World Baseball Classic.
Making the WBC tournament meant playing against some of the top baseball players in the world, but the bright lights didn’t blind Ford. He hit a three-run home run against Canada, and a solo home run against Colombia.
After his home run against Canada at Chase Field, Ford’s teammates greeted him as he approached the dugout by draping him with a robe and crown and he was knighted by his coach, much to his evident delight.
Driven by Ford’s talent, British baseball has experienced a resurgence. The team has already qualified for the next World Baseball Classic off the back of its win against Colombia in the group stage. Team GB is currently ranked 18th in the WBSC world rankings, the highest it has ever been.
After finishing sixth or worse in the previous six European Baseball Championships, Team GB claimed silver in the 2023 edition of the tournament, losing to Spain in the final. Ford led the tournament in RBI (12) and stolen bases (five), and tied for the second most home runs with three.
However, Ford still isn’t convinced he’s made it big back in the U.K.
“I doubt people would recognize me on the street,” Ford said. “But maybe my grandma talks about me. I don’t know, but I don’t think you would notice from just looking.”
The World Baseball Classic not only elevated Ford’s profile to the “future of British baseball,” but also allowed him to test his talents against some of the best players in the world.
He played against the likes of Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, among other MLB stars. As a catcher, Ford had never called pitches against players of their caliber before, something that was vital for his development as a player.
“It helped a lot,” Ford said. “I learned a lot about how to pitch to a lineup, how to call pitches through a lineup. How to prepare, how I play in front of a big crowd like that and just my tendencies and who I am as a player and a person. It was really cool learning more about myself.”
As a participant in the Arizona Fall League, Ford can test his talents against some of the MLB’s top young prospects.
He’s had a strong start already, hitting three home runs in five games and recording 11 RBIs.
Playing against some of the brightest young talent in baseball is another opportunity for Ford to improve.
“The guys here are super talented and you don’t get too many opportunities to be around dudes from different organizations who learn different things and get taught different things,” Ford said. “So being able to kind of like jumble it all up into making my own thing is cool, and I probably won’t get many opportunities to do that. So I think it’s going to help a lot over the next six weeks.”