After just one year at Rice, sophomore shortstop Ford Proctor is already making a name for himself. His .336 average and team leading .471 slugging percentage earned him many accolades, including Freshman All-American, Conference USA Freshman of the Year, All-Conference USA (second team) and Conference USA All-Tournament Team. Despite the national recognition he has achieved, Proctor said he is not worrying about all of the individual honor.
“It’s humbling to be named all those things but I try not to think about that,” Proctor said. “One thing I try to think about is: You play to win, you play for your teammates, you work hard every day and let the chips fall where they may.”
Proctor was drafted to the major leagues out of high school in the 40th round by the 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. The Houston native said he had already committed to Rice, but he was honored to be selected.
“Draft day comes and you really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Proctor said. “I sat on my computer throughout the whole process and I saw my name pop up. It’s something you always think about happening and it happened.”
Proctor, however, said he is happy at Rice and is looking forward to building off of last season.
“[Playing for Rice] was something I always worked for as a kid,” Proctor said. “The whole experience of my first season in Division I baseball was cool, but [I] realize there’s a lot more work to be done.”
Last year, the team fell just shy of its ultimate goal of winning the national title, as the Owls fell in the regionals against Louisiana State University. Proctor said developing team chemistry is essential to making a longer run in the postseason.
“Last year, we went to Cuba and we had an experience that drew us closer as a team,” Proctor said. “This will only help us going forward, and this year’s bunch is really tight knit.”
According to Proctor, the 2016 Cuba tour was a once in a lifetime experience because the team got to experience Cuba’s culture.
In the one game the Owls played before the baseball hiatus, Proctor went 3-for-4 with a double and one RBI to help propel the Owls to a 4-0 victory over the Cuban League team Artemisa.
Proctor’s slick fielding abilities and doubles power is comparable to Corey Seager, the Los Angeles Dodger who won National League rookie of the year in 2016. Proctor said his favorite player is Jay Bruce of the New York Mets, who he got to train with during the offseason.
During the offseason when he’s not playing baseball, Proctor said he enjoys hunting and fishing — his biggest catch, a Red Drum, weighed in at 55-60 pounds.
Proctor however, is never away from the game for long. After the Rice season ended, he spent last summer playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League to hone his skills against the best college players in the nation. Then, when classes began, he started fall ball. For the spring season, baseball officially started Jan. 27 when Rice held its first practice. The Owls are now making their final preparations for the season.
Among those preparations is choosing the appropriate walkup song. This year, Proctor said he chose “The Stroke” by Billy Squire because it has a good beat, but he prefers something more calm before the games.
“All of my teammates make fun of me because I’m listening to country but I like to listen to something calm and stay level headed,” Proctor said. “I think that’s the best state of mind to be in when you’re playing baseball.”
Proctor will need to be in his best state next week when the Owls travel to Austin to play the University of Texas Longhorns in the season opener. Head coach Wayne Graham said he has high hopes for the team this year and said that Proctor will be a large part of the team’s success.
“I may not be around when it happens, but if that kid doesn’t get injured, he’s going to play in the pros,” Graham said.