July 23, 2018 | ° F

Jersey icon leaves mark on Rutgers baseball

Photo by Cameron Stroud |

Head coach Fred Hill built a close relationship with Ed Ford over his 28-year tenure with the Scarlet Knights. Ford helped players like Michael Lang, Evan Pimental and Alberto Vasquez get to Rutgers.

Some knew him as a Major League Baseball scout, others as a high school baseball coach and even more for his efforts as a former columnist for The Jersey Journal.

But no matter how Ed Ford earned a place in the lives of the many he impacted in Jersey City, they all knew him by one name — "The Faa."

The 65-year-old died Tuesday after a long battle with health issues, leaving behind the many athletes, coaches and citizens within the Hudson County lines he touched.

But those lines never stopped the Faa from leaving his mark on Rutgers athletics, specifically to head baseball coach Fred Hill and the rest of the Scarlet Knights' baseball program.

Photo: Cameron Stroud

Michael Lang, above, walked onto the Rutgers baseball team after Ed Ford, who passed away Tuesday at age 65, introduced the St. Peter's Prep product to Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill. Lang became a scholarship player and leads Rutgers in hitting.

"We had a longstanding relationship," said Hill, who coached at Rutgers for 28 seasons. "I met Eddy when he was a scout for the Chicago White Sox and had a lot of dealings with him at that time. He was very instrumental in trying to help the kids from Jersey City. Alberto Vasquez and [senior] Mike Lang and [sophomore] Evan Pimentel are all kids he steered our way."

While he dabbled in a number of different professions in the realm of sports, perhaps the Faa's greatest contributions came in his services to aspiring athletes in Jersey City.

A good friend to St. Anthony head basketball coach Bob Hurley, the Faa was a key advocate for support of local athletics in Jersey City and a respected judge of talent for athletics in the state.

That is where players like Vasquez, a star catcher for the Knights until 2003, Pimentel and Lang come in.

All three are Jersey City natives and all three can point back to the Faa's help for getting their shots to play baseball at Rutgers.

"He helped us because of our relationship and helped us in the recruiting aspect of Jersey City players," Hill said. "We would generally hear from him when he thought there was a player that could come here and help us, especially right off the bat. He was always on the lookout for us."

While on the lookout, the Faa saw something in Lang that no other program did, and dedicated himself to making the St. Peter's Prep product a better player.

When it comes to Lang, who did not receive a scholarship offer after his senior season in high school, the Faa's efforts proved crucial to getting him a chance to play for Hill.

"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am at all — not even close," Lang said. "He pretty much taught me how to hit in high school. He got me to Rutgers. I wouldn't be at Rutgers, I'd be at Rowan right now if it wasn't for him."

Lang contemplated playing Division III baseball at Rowan before the Faa got him a tryout for Hill.

But even though Lang earned a spot on the roster, playing time did not add up early on in his freshman year.

Through those struggles, Lang turned to the Faa for advice.

"I would call him up and I'd be like, ‘I'm not playing,' and this and that, and he was the one who got me through all that," Lang said. "He gave me advice on what to do. He was the one who helped me through everything. He was a pretty big part of my life."

Eventually the stars aligned for Lang, as he ascended to a starting role in right field midway through his rookie campaign.

From there, the rest is history, and Lang went on to solidify his spot in the lineup as one of the most dangerous hitters in recent memory.

The Dumont, N.J., native hit at least .317 in each of his four seasons in Piscataway, but according to Lang, none of that would have been possible without the Faa.

"He taught me so much. Everything he said was of value — that was the thing with him," Lang said. "He didn't BS you. He told you straight up what he thought. He was just a real person — he just said it how it is. He's a character — he was an honest guy. He was just a real upfront person, and if you didn't like it then too bad."

The Faa's colorful personality is something recalled by anyone who encountered him. The longtime Jersey City icon could often be spotted with a wad of chewing tobacco on the side of his cheek, with a quirky attitude and straightforward approach.

Within the confines of the city, the Faa will likely always be remembered as one of the most influential sports advocates for those very characteristics.

But for Hill, Lang and the rest of the Rutgers baseball program, the Faa will always have a special meaning.

"I honestly remember him as one of the best guys I've ever met in my life," Lang said. "One of the most willing [people] — very caring. He looked out for his guys more than anything. If you acted the right way with him and treated him well and with respect, he treated you like a son. He was almost like a father figure to me in certain aspects of my life."

Anthony Hernandez

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