David Ford knew when he began struggling with elbow issues while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles in 1985 it was time to retire. Now, nearly 35 years later, the 62-year-old former major leaguer is leaving his job on his own terms.
Ford will retire as manager of the Don Umerley Civic Center at the end of the month after 32 years with the city. Ford became the building’s manager in 2001.
“You get to a certain point in your life and you just know when it’s time,” said Ford, leaning back in a chair in his rec center office. “I’m very thankful and blessed that I had the opportunity to work here.”
Ford decided earlier this year to retire and focus on baseball. In the summer, he plans on running baseball clinics for both the Indians and the Orioles. When he’s not doing that, he hopes to find part-time work on a golf course and plans to help his 18-year-old son, Will, get ready for college.
The walls of his office act as a makeshift museum of his life, lined with photos of him while he played for the Orioles. One photo of him golfing that’s littered with autographs of sports legends greets you as you walk in. Ford’s life was anything but ordinary.
Born in 1956, Ford was the youngest of four children growing up in Cleveland. His father worked as an RTA bus driver and his mother was a seamstress. He attended Lincoln West High School, where he was an all-state baseball and basketball player.
In 1975, he was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles while sitting in his high school English class. In his first major league appearance, Ford pitched 8 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox without giving up a hit. After five years on the team, he suffered from chronic shoulder issues and tendonitis in his right elbow, Ford said.
He landed his first job in an assistant role for the city in 1987 after spending the prior year working as a delivery driver and in construction. His favorite part of the job was being able to work with city leaders such as Mayor Pamela Bobst to successfully operate the civic center.
“You couldn’t ask for better leadership,” he said, noting that while he’s looking forward to the future, he will miss all the wonderful people he’s worked with over the years.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Holub will miss the help that Ford gave him and the department.
“Dave was a huge help to me when I started here,” Holub said. “He’s a tremendous asset, not only to the department but the entire city of Rocky River, and it will be hard to replace the institutional knowledge he gave us.”
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