Midwest Nationals Mourn the Passing of Jay Ward
The Midwest Nationals and the game of baseball lost a true friend on Friday, February 24th with the passing of Jay Ward. Jay was a member of the Nationals Advisory Board and frequently hosted the Jay Ward Hitting School at Balls-N-Strikes in Springfield and Nixa.
A memorial service gathering in Jay’s memory is planned for 5:30 pm on Saturday, March 10th at the Bill Rowe Indoor Training Facility at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri.
Jay spent many years as a youth in Mountain Grove, Missouri and had many friends and connections in southwest Missouri.
Jay Ward began his professional baseball career at the young age of 17 with the New York Yankees in 1956 for the Kearney Yankees of the Nebraska State League, and earned All-League honors. On August 17th of that year, he hit grand slams in consecutive innings for Kearney.
Jay played over 1800 games in 17 years as an infielder and outfielder in the minors and hit over 20 home runs in a season five times. He spent one season in Nippon Pro Baseball in 1966 with the Chunichi Dragons. Back in the USA in 1967, he had some of his best seasons as a third baseman in the Pacific Coast League in the late 1960s, including 1969 when he led the league with 35 doubles.
During his playing career, he played in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 1963 and 1964 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1970.
After his playing career, he left baseball for a while and moved back to his home state, Missouri. When he decided to return he became the manager for the Bend Phillies in 1983, the rookie club of the Philadelphia Phillies. His managing career included stints with the Phillies, Reds, and Pirates. In 1986, he won the Eastern League championship with the Vermont Reds. Overall, Jay managed 15 seasons in independent and affiliated minor league baseball with over 700 wins.
In 1987, he returned to the major leagues as Hitting Coach for the New York Yankees, where he worked with Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson as well as current Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly.
From New York, he went to the Montreal Expos as Hitting Coordinator for the minor leagues, until he was promoted to the Major Leagues in Montreal as Hitting Coach. While in Montreal, he helped shaped the careers of young players such as Larry Walker, Delino DeShields, and Moises Alou.
After his time with the Yankees and the Expos, Jay was considered one of the premier hitting instructors in baseball and went on to become Hitting Coordinator for the Atlanta Braves. During his time with Atlanta, Jay worked with a talented group of young players including Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Javier Lopez, David Justice, and Ryan Klesko.
During the off season of 1992, Jay and Wade Boggs opened the Wade Boggs and Jay Ward Hitting School, for kids ages 10-18. The school was a great success and kids from all over the country flew in for a week of instruction from Jay. Wade was also working with Jay during the off season and would show up for his workouts at the school. This was a very exciting time for the kids to see a great player like Wade getting the instruction from the same coach they had.
At the age of 55, Jay decided it was time to retire, but that didn’t last long. He still wanted to help young players develop and learn to play “The Game” the right way.
This began another career for him with Independent baseball. Jay became manager in the Northern League Baseball Association and this move took him to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (1996-98) and Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (1999-2001) and then to Schaumburg, Illinois.
Once again, he decided it was time to retire, and once again the urge to help young players returned.
Over the years that Jay has worked with players, from the very youngest to the highest paid professionals, he worked out a system called, “The Process.” The unique quality to his instruction was Jay’s belief that even though certain basics never change, every player is different, so one technique cannot work for everyone.
Jay Ward was highly regarded in baseball circles as a dedicated field general with a burning commitment to excellence.