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Ford Suns' biggest star

June 02, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

Matt Ford is part of the few, the proud, the privileged.

The 19-year-old isn't standing up for a Marine recruitment poster. No, the Hagerstown starting pitcher is just the Suns' only representative on the Northern Division team for the 2000 South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

"That's an absolute privilege," Ford said Thursday after pitching the Suns to a 16-3 victory over the Cape Fear Crocs. "It's a privilege to be playing in a game that will have so many future major leaguers in it."

Ford, Toronto's third pick in the 1999 amateur draft, was selected to the team by Piedmont manger Greg Legg, who will head the Northern team against the Southern Division in the 41st annual event on June 20 at Joseph Riley Park in Charleston, S.C.

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Ford is 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 10 appearances, including six starts. He has walked 13 while striking out 47 in 46 2/3 innings.

The left-hander has been in the "piggyback" spot of the Suns rotation, starting on alternate outings with Brian Cardwell. For that reason, Ford's selection could be considered a bit of a surprise.

"Someone saw something they must have liked," Ford said.

Legg had some lasting memories of Ford, who pitched well twice against the Boll Weevils, the top team in the Northern Division. Ford has a 1.18 ERA against Piedmont.

But Suns manager Rolando Pino is convinced Ford was selected for his overall merits.

"Matt going isn't a surprise to me," Pino said. "He's pitched very well when he has gone out there for us. What did surprise me is that Reed Johnson didn't make it. I thought he has been having that kind of year for us."

Johnson, Hagerstown's outfielder who leads the team with 43 RBI, and pitcher Aaron Dean looked to be the Suns top All-Star candidates. But Johnson was overlooked, despite a .313 average with 11 doubles, three triples and three home runs.

Dean is 6-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his 10 starts and leads the Suns with 46 strikeouts.

Pino, who was last year's Northern Division All-Star manger, said starters and position reserves for the All-Star game are selected by a league-wide vote. The team manager selects the catchers and pitchers.

Hagerstown is the only team in the Northern Division with only one representative to the All-Star Game. Charleston (W.Va.), 15-37 in the half, placed two players on the Northern team while Cape Fear had four and Delmarva had three players selected to the team.

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