Mike Ford is adjusting to becoming instantly famous. The Charleston RiverDogs' first baseman became one of the few players in professional baseball history to hit four home runs in one game, a feat pulled off Sunday during a 17-10 win over the Hickory Crawdads in a Class A South Atlantic League game.
Interview requests and congratulatory texts keep coming.
Not bad for a 21-year-old guy who wasn't even selected in the Major League draft; Ford signed with the New York Yankees, the RiverDogs parent club, as a free agent.
But there is more than one enchanted game to a former Princeton student-athlete who eschews social media, grew up rooting for the Yankees before becoming an Ivy League icon.
It's costing Ford to play baseball.
The Belle Mead, N.J., native is a few credits short of a Princeton degree in History. His father, Robert Ford, is a recently retired radiologist. His mother, Barbara Marroccoli, is an internist. His older brother Rob is a doctor, too.
"My parents and brother constantly tell me I have the best job in the family," Ford said. "And I do; I'm out on a baseball field every day. I just know I'm doing something I love, and not many people get to say that."
The History major from Princeton who has focused on U.S. history doesn't know his baseball history.
"That's one thing I do not know much about," Ford said. "I'll probably catch a lot from saying this but, no, I don't."
Ford didn't eat anything different for breakfast in Hickory.
And while going 4-for-5 at L.P. Frans Stadium, the 6-0, 225-pound left-handed hitter didn't waver from his 33.5-inch, 31.5-ounce bat. He walked and struck out swinging before launching four straight home runs to become the third player in Sally League history with a four-homer game (no one has hit five).
"I actually didn't feel that good," Ford said. "I wasn't seeing the ball in my first two at-bats. Then all of the sudden something clicked and I started seeing the ball like a cantaloupe."
Ford isn't on Twitter.
But his phone bulged with texts, including one from a former Princeton teammate that still has Ford laughing.
"He asked me, 'What happened in the fifth at-bat?'" Ford said.
Ford is in good baseball company.
Only 14 Major Leaguers have hit four homers in a game since 1900 (including former RiverDogs outfielder Josh Hamilton, who did so while playing for the Texas Rangers at Baltimore in 2012).
Four minor leaguers have hit five homers in one game since 1900 (but none since 1948).
Florida State's Marshall McDougall hit six homers in a game at Maryland in 1999.
"Incredible," Ford said. "I can't believe they kept pitching to him."
The Ivy League has never seen a versatile talent quite like Mike Ford.
Ford as a junior in 2013 became the only player to be named Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in the same Ivy League season.
Still, he went undrafted.
"It obviously hurts your pride a little bit," Ford said, "but I'm the kind of person that if you knock me down, I'm just going to get up stronger."
This isn't Ford's first four-homer rodeo.
He hit four home runs using a metal bat in a high school game.
"I was pitching in that game as well but I think this tops it because it's pro ball," Ford said. "Right now, I would almost rather hit with wood. When you square a ball up with wood, it goes just as far."
Born on the Fourth of July, Ford grew up a Yankees fan.
The Yankees signed him for $140,000 last July after watching Ford tear up the prestigious Cape Cod League, a wood bat summer showcase for college players. Playing for the Cotuit Kettleers, he was leading the league with a .407 batting average and tied for the lead in homers with five.
"It was the best offer I got but the monetary thing wasn't that big a deal," Ford said. "The Yankees were the team I wanted to go to all along."
Ford is not a top Yankees prospect - or so say the experts. But hitting .315 with eight home runs for the season, he's getting enough attention for several prospects combined.
"It's awesome," Ford said. "To see the support from back home and to see the support from my teammates is the best part. It's nice to get recognition, but the most important part for me is to see that I have a lot of people back home who are interested in how I'm doing."
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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