The story of the underdog is one of life’s favorite fables.
David’s rock crashing into Goliath’s head, Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, defeating heavy-favorite Sonny Liston, or Mike Eruzione firing team USA ahead during the Miracle on Ice – it is written into human nature to route for, and then remember, the unlikely hero.
When Harry Ford walked up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh at Chase Field, the Great Britain baseball team was already on the cusp of adding themselves to this list of longshots – with a World Baseball Classic win against Colombia in the team’s tournament debut.
Leading off the innings in Phoenix, Arizona the 20-year-old did not seem burdened by the potentially historic feat and, with a one and two count, Ford got the pitch he was waiting for.
The Seattle Mariners prospect crushed a home run into left-field and gave Great Britain some much-needed breathing space with a 6-3 lead.
Despite being born in America, Ford has quickly become one of the faces of British baseball during his young career.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia to British parents, the catcher was crucial to his side’s entry to the World Baseball Classic and has continued his good form on the big stage.
Speaking to MLB.com before joining up with his Great Britain teammates, Ford touched on his Britishness.
“My dad is the big one. My mom’s British, too. But my dad is like really, really British,” Ford explained.
“He still has his accent and everything. For him, [playing for Team GB] was one of the best things ever. Just because he’s always been at every single one of my baseball games since I started, and being able to just to represent his country and play and be the first Great Britain team to make it this far, too, has really meant the world to him.”
Like Ford, a lot of the players in the GB squad were not born in Britain, but the players have fully embraced their role of representing the nation.
With Britain trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Bahamian born Chavez Young hit a single to left-field and enabled Nick Ward and Darnell Sweeney to score.
After an error from Colombia’s Harold Ramirez, Young advanced to second and celebrated by pretending to sip from a cup of tea – a celebration which has become a staple of the team’s repertoire.
After Young’s two-run single, Great Britain was now level at 3-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, and with runners waiting on second and third, youngster Jaden Rudd stepped up to the plate. The 20-year-old hit hard and low to left-field – sending Ward and Sweeney home for their second runs of the game.
Ford’s homer followed two innings later and for Great Britain it was now time to believe. After sending the ball to space, Ford was draped in a regal robe by his teammates and sported a crown fit for a king as he made his way back to the dugout.
With Ward capitalizing on a wild pitch for his third run of the game, Great Britain took a 7-3 lead.
Ian Gibaut was then tasked with seeing Great Britain home. The pitcher grew up on the much more traditionally British sport of cricket. His father, Russel, played professionally for Welsh team Glamorgan and English team Lancashire before emigrating to the US.
The 29-year-old must have inherited his dad’s ability in bat and ball sports and entered the game in the top of the eighth with Colombia looking to mount a comeback.
The Cincinnati Reds reliever survived the late scare and Great Britain won its inaugural World Baseball Classic game 7-5.
Speaking after the game to the MLB Network, Great Britain manager Drew Spencer exclaimed that this could be a turning point in the future of baseball on the island.
“I think there will be people who can use this moment as inspiration to come out and play the game and to believe that someone with [Great Britain] on the front of their chest can be successful,” he said.