By Bob Behre
As Yankees fans waited impatiently for their team to produce something, anything, three former NJ Super 17 players out of the Diamond Nation program in Flemington, N.J., were putting on an offensive show of their own last night in Anaheim.
Mike Trout, Mike Ford and Matt Thaiss combined to go 6-for-9 for the Angels, scored two runs, drove in a run and, in Ford’s case, hit a home run in the team’s 4-3 victory over the reeling Yankees.
Every travel program knows the feeling of having their players succeed at a higher level, be it in college, professional ball or, most importantly of all, life. So to see three of our players in the same major league lineup last night was truly special.
Trout and Thaiss have been teammates for the past four seasons and Ford, playing for his fourth team (San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta) this season, hooked on with the Angels last week. The former Yankee has had only 59 at bats in 2022 and the home run was his first of the season. Trout, already a three-time American League MVP, was recently activated after a long stint on the IL.
Trout, batting second in the Angels’ order, singled to center field in his first at bat in the first inning. Ford, batting sixth, came to the plate in the bottom of the second and looped a single into center. One out later, Thaiss, batting eighth, stepped in and ripped a single to right field. Yankees righthander Frankie Montas got a strikeout to get out of the inning.
In the third, Montas hit Trout with a pitch in an otherwise clean inning for the former A’s pitcher.
But Montas didn’t escape Ford’s bat in the fourth. The Hun School and Princeton University grad stepped in with one out and jumped on a first-pitch cutter and drove it 395 feet and over the fence in right field to tie the game at 2-2.
Trout, a first round draft pick out of Millville High in South Jersey, delivered a two-out singled to center in the fifth and Shohei Ohtani followed with a two-run home run to right that gave the Angels a 4-2 lead.
Thaiss, a Jackson Memorial and Virginia grad, led off the seventh for the Angels with a single to center, but Clay Holmes relieved for the Yankees and retired the next three batters in order, including Trout on a grounder to shortstop.
Trout, 31, was drafted 25th overall in 2009 by the Angels and was already in the majors by 2011. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2012 when he finished second in the American League MVP voting. He set the New Jersey high school single-season home run record of 18 in his senior season at Millville. The two-time First Team All-State selection actually made All-State his junior season as a pitcher.
Thaiss, 27, was a two-time high school All-Stater, as well, at Jackson Memorial where he was a terrific catcher. He caught at Virginia, too, and starred on the Cavalier’s College World Series championship team his junior season in 2015. He was drafted 16th overall by the Angels in 2016 and was immediately moved to the corner infield positions. He debuted with the Angels in 2019. He’s played third base, second base and behind the plate this season.
Ford, 30, has taken a different path to ‘The Show’ but none less impressive. After starring at Hun, he played at Princeton under coach Scott Bradley. Ford, remarkably, was named the Ivy League’s Pitcher and Hitter of the Year after his junior season in 2013. He played that summer in the Cape Cod League and drew the attention of MLB scouts. The Yankees signed him to a free agent contract late that summer. Ford spent six seasons and amassed 630 at bats in the minors but made plenty of noise along the way, especially on May 25, 2014 when he hit four home runs in a game for the Charleston RiverDogs of the Single-A South Atlantic League.
Ford got the call up by the Yankees in July of 2019 and produced immediately.
By that September, Ford had established himself as a power threat from the left side, aiming at the short porch in Yankees Stadium’s right field. He put up impressive numbers in just 143 at bats. He ripped seven doubles, 12 HRs and drove home 25 runs. His keen eye at the plate was shown in 17 walks and a .350 on-base percentage. He also boasted a gaudy .909 OPS. Ford came through with five hits in pinch-hit at bats that season, including a walk-off home run in a 5-4 victory over the A’s on Sept. 1.