Originally created 08/11/00

Jackets crush RedStixx



He is poised to win the South Atlantic League batting title, but it is his defense that has him on the fast track to Fenway Park.

So just how good of a center fielder is GreenJackets star Lew Ford?

So good that one play in the field made everything else over the course of Thursday night's marathon contest, a 12-4 Jackets win over the Columbus RedStixx, seem trivial.

Forget the combined 16 runs scored, the 25 hits, the 23 strikeouts. Forget the 3-for-4, two-RBI night for Jackets catcher Kelly Ramos. Forget the ejection by umpire Josh Rees of Columbus manager Ricky Gutierrez for a second consecutive night. Forget that the game took 3' hours to complete.

When the smoke cleared, it was an unfathomable catch by Ford in the fourth inning on a drive to deep center by Oscar Garcia that captivated the crowd of 1,838 fans, the players and the coaches in both dugouts.

To Ford, who was given a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout, it was no big deal.

"As soon as he hit it I felt I was going to make the catch," said Ford, who went 2-for-6 with two runs scored and his 48th stolen base. "I feel like I can make that catch every time if I get a good jump on the ball.

"I felt like that was a good catch, but I think I've made better ones. "

With two out, the bases loaded and the RedStixx threatening to take the lead in what was a close ballgame to that point, Garcia jumped on a fastball by reliever Corey Spencer and drilled it to the deepest part of the ballpark.

Ford, who plays as shallow as any outfielder in baseball, broke at the crack of the bat and sprinted toward the flag pole in center.

Garcia's drive seemed destined to land just shy of the warning track. But Ford had it corralled all the way.

The scary part is that he did it so effortlessly.

"I've played for two organizations and seen lots of good outfielders," said Jackets catcher Kelly Ramos, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run double in the seventh inning that gave the Jackets the lead for good. "That was an unbelievable catch, and he made it look very easy. In my mind, he is the best outfielder I've ever seen."

Ford's defense certainly has garnered attention around the league and the Red Sox organization.

In its latest edition, Baseball America recognized the Grand Prairie, Texas, native as the top defensive outfielder in the SAL.

His glove, not his SAL-leading .336 average coming in, is what most impresses Jackets manager Mike Boulanger.

"He's made so many great catches, so when you read about him being the best defensive outfielder in league you're not surprised," Boulanger said. "That's why he'll play in the big leagues. That stuff doesn't come and go. Hitting comes and goes. His defense is unbelievable.

"To me he's the best player in the league, maybe in the organization right now. (Hitting coach) Victor Rodriguez thinks he's the best player he's seen in six years. I just love him to death."

NOTES: GreenJackets left fielder Chris Warren celebrated his 4-for-4 game Wednesday with a night off Thursday. Warren, who had played in 113 of Augusta's 117 games entering Thursday, pulled a groin muscle and will sit for at least one more game. ... The Jackets' booster club named third baseman Stephen Minus its player of the month and Jerome Gamble pitcher of the month for July.

JACKETS TONIGHT

Vs.: Columbus RedStixx (Indians)

Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium

When: 7:05 p.m.

Probable starters: Columbus -- RHP Phil Rosengren (3-4, 4.75 ERA); Augusta -- RHP Jerome Gamble (6-6, 4.23 ERA).

Tickets: $7, $6, $5, Seniors/Children 4-12, Military $4.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.