Turner Ward

This article was written by Warren Campbell

Turner Ward has two World Series rings from his time with the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays. He is a member of the Mobile, Alabama, Sports Hall of Fame (2007 inductee) and is best known in baseball history for never giving up and not having taken his eye off the ball.

Turner Max Ward was born on April 11, 1965, in Orlando, Florida, to Dr. James M. and Sandra Turner Ward. His father was a longtime veterinarian in Saraland, Alabama, and he had four brothers, Wes, Jay, Wade, and Lance, and a sister, Jodi.1 He spent a lot of time learning baseball with older brother Wes.

While playing Little League at Amelia Park, Turner would emulate his heroes like Dale Murphy. The only major-league game he went to was with his father and brothers, when Hank Aaron was closing in on Babe Ruth’s career home-run record. “I was about 9 or 10 years old and had never been to a major league [game] before or since until I played in one. My dad took my brothers and I to a game in Atlanta and had us in seats in the outfield. Every swing Aaron took there were lights flashing, it was a very special moment for me. He hit one out and I like to tell people that the ball was coming right to us and that we got it, but we didn’t. I didn’t catch the ball but what I did catch that night was a dream to be a major leaguer. That’s where it started for me.”2

From the age of 14, he was focused on being a major leaguer. “A coach told me you if want to hit the ball farther you’re going to have to get stronger. I just started training myself that way. I’d run for miles. I loved to run. It was almost like stress relief for me.”3 His parents, older brother, and coaches saw his determination and encouraged him all the way through.

Success was not guaranteed. Turner did not make the Satsuma High School freshman baseball team. “I didn’t make my freshman team but it didn’t discourage me. It actually turned my senses stronger to getting better. So I worked on getting better every year.”4 After graduating from high school, he was so sure he would become a major leaguer that he would sign fellow students’ yearbooks with his number and draw a little baseball bat and ball.5

Throughout high school and as a college freshman, Turner Ward was strictly a right-handed hitter but a family member gave him advice. “My uncle Mutt spent some time in the lower minor leagues and he told me that I’ll be a platoon player unless I learned to switch-hit. After my freshman year in college, I spent the winter learning to be a switch-hitter.”6

After high school, Turner went to Faulkner State College in Bay Minette, Alabama. Thirty-seven players for the Faulkner State Sun Chiefs have gone on to professional baseball.7 In his two years on the team, Ward broke future Boston Red Sox infielder Dave Stapleton’s team records for doubles and triples in a season and batted .448. “I had a couple of pretty good seasons and some records fell but I’m sure my records have been broken since,” he said.8

Ward then joined his brother in the outfield for the University of South Alabama Jaguars of the Sun Belt Conference, where he led the nation in outfield assists with 17. “That was something I found out about later. I had a good accurate arm and everything worked that year.”9

In the 1986 season, Ward was spotted by Yankees scout Jack Gillis, a longtime scout for the Yankees, Rays, Rockies, and Blue Jays. (Gillis had a keen eye for talent and in 2011 was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.10)

In the 18th round of the June 1986 amateur draft, the Yankees selected Ward, the third South Alabama player they chose in the draft. He was asked what it would take to sign him, and he replied, “I asked for my college to be paid for and a new car. The Yankees called my mother and then the auto dealer because she told them I was visiting my friend there. They agreed to pay for my college and a car. So I tell everybody if you need a good clean used car or a major-league contract go to Little’s Auto Sales.”11

Ward began with Oneonta of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League. In 1987 he was promoted to Fort Lauderdale of the Class-A Florida State League. In 1988 he moved to Triple-A Columbus, where he hit .251 and stole 28 bases. In spring training of 1989, the Yankees traded outfielders Ward and Joel Skinner to Cleveland for Mel Hall. For Ward, the season started slowly after he was injured in the final spring-training game of the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in Edmonton.12 When he returned, he hit well for Cleveland’s minor-league teams in Canton/Akron in 1989 and Colorado Springs in 1990. When major-league rosters expanded in September 1990, Ward was called up by the Indians. He made his major-league debut on September 10, 1990, against the Chicago White Sox. He played right field and was 0-for-4 in a 6-2 loss. Two days later he got his first hit, off Steve Rosenberg of the White Sox, and on September 15, Ward started again, against the Kansas City Royals and went 3-for-5 in a 14-6 walkaway with a triple, a home run off Andy McGaffigan, and 6 RBIs. He finished the season hitting .348 for Cleveland in 14 games.

Ward started the 1991 season as Cleveland’s starting right fielder. After playing in 40 games, he was hitting .230. On June 27 the Blue Jays were looking to shore up their pitching staff and acquired Cleveland pitching ace Tom Candiotti along with Ward for pitcher Denis Boucher and outfielders Glenallen Hill, Mark Whiten and cash.

The ’91 Blue Jays were a contender and had a crowded outfield. Ward spent most of the season at Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .330, earning a September call-up during the Blue Jays’ successful pennant drive. He contributed two singles in his first game, on September 2, helping the Blue Jays come from behind against the Baltimore Orioles. He ended up getting 14 plate appearances in eight games, hitting .308 for the eventual American League East champions.

The 1992 Blue Jays did not re-sign Candiotti, and other key players left the team, but they were still considered the AL East Division favorites after signing star players Jack Morris and Dave Winfield during the offseason. Ward made the Opening Day roster but played in only six games before returning to Syracuse as the Blue Jays had a strong starting outfield in Joe Carter, Candy Maldonado, and Devon White. After hitting .239 in 81 games for Syracuse, he returned in September for another successful stretch drive as the ’92 Blue Jays beat out the Milwaukee Brewers by four games to win the AL East. Ward played in 18 games, had 33 plate appearances, and hit .345, filling in at all three outfield positions and pinch-hitting.

Ward did not play in the postseason. After the 1992 World Series championship, he was again ready to try to make his mark as a Blue Jays outfielder in 1993. Ward was on the major-league roster for most of the 1993 season, but the crowded outfield allowed him only limited playing time. He played in 72 games and played all three outfield positions, but batted just .192.

At the July 31 trade deadline, the Blue Jays acquired Rickey Henderson. Ward wore number 24 and Henderson was not comfortable wearing number 14. Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders acted as Ward’s “agent” and helped negotiate a deal for the coveted 24. The actual terms of the transaction were never known but it has long been rumored that the transaction cost around $25,000. “I got an undisclosed amount of merchandise,” Ward told the questioning media, and added, “Next thing he’s going to take my locker. He already took my number and left field.” Ward added said with a wide grin, “I told my wife to stay away from him.”13

Once again, Ward didn’t see any postseason action as he watched the Blue Jays win their second consecutive World Series. “No doubt that those years on the Blue Jays taught me to move to a different level. Those are some of the things that I teach now [as a hitting coach], there’s a lot of frustration in this game but the battles that you can win are really in the mind. That’s what I learned in Toronto, that frustration went through my whole body and I couldn’t perform the way I wanted to. That time was career-changing from that point forward.”14

After the 1993 season, the Blue Jays placed Ward on waivers and he was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent three years with the Brewers, playing all three outfield positions. In 1994 season Ward played in what was to that point a career-high 102 games, hitting .232 with 9 homers and 45 RBIs. In 1995 and 1996, he was relegated to backup outfield duty, appearing in 44 and 43 games respectively. He hit .264 in 1995 but his average dropped to .179 in 1996. After that season he was released. In April 1997 he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as their fourth outfielder.

In Ward’s first year with the Pirates, he began the year with Triple-A Calgary, where he batted .340 in 59 games. On July 3 he joined the Pirates and had by far his best season as a major-league batter, appearing in 71 games and batting .353 with a.420 on-base percentage and 33 RBIs.

For three seasons Ward he filled in all over the outfield and had some of his most productive seasons at the plate. On May 3, 1998, he made a catch that is long remembered. “Right from A-ball I always played as if defense should never go in a slump so if I’m not hitting well I’ve got to make the plays from a defensive standpoint. I told everybody in A-ball that I would run through a wall to catch a ball. I held true to my word.”15 That he did, on a fly to deep right field by Mike Piazza. Ward knew he was going to hit the wall but he was not going to let the ball fall to the ground. Instead, he went right through the wall at Three Rivers Stadium. A clip of the catch has become legendary on baseball highlight shows.16

Ward’s 1998 season was his most active one: He played in 123 games and batted .262 with 9 home runs and a career-best 46 RBIs. Pittsburgh was a city he connected with the most. “It’s a blue-collar town. I’m a guy from a small town and was most comfortable in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was my style of play. I wasn’t an everyday guy but I was always ready to come off the bench and pinch-hit. The game kind of found me in Pittsburgh and I kind of found my game.”17

After two strong seasons, Ward was less successful in 1999 and in mid-August, batting .209 after appearing in 49 games, Ward was released by the Pirates, A week later, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 10 games at the end of the season, he hit .348. He appeared in just 15 major-league games in 2000, batting .173. Most of his time was spent at Triple-A Tucson, where he hit .378 in 32 games. As in many other seasons in his career, injuries played a big part in his limited appearances in 1999. “Fractures, dislocations, torn tendons; still have eight screws in my right leg. I’ve had surgery on my right shoulder, my left shoulder, my right knee. All of those were due to baseball injuries. There were a lot of times I was feeling like I had to reinvent myself through different ways.”18

Released in October, Ward signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in December. He spent most of 2001 at Triple A again, with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with some midseason work in June and July when he hit .267 in 17 games for the Phillies.

Turner Ward was released and his 12-year major-league playing career ended. He returned to Mobile County and became a youth minister for the First Baptist Church of Satsuma. He regularly spoke about connecting his life in baseball and his religious devotion.19 Ward began helping his father-in-law, who worked in cabinetry and refinished furniture. Ward got his builder’s license and took on a bigger challenge, building homes to sell on speculation. Ward built his own home a 6,000-square-foot house.20

Once again, baseball returned when former teammate Doug Strange, then an assistant GM with Pittsburgh, asked Ward if he was interested in managing the Gulf Coast Rookie League team in 2006. With his family encouraging him to return to the game he managed five future major leaguers on the Gulf Coast Pirates to a third-place finish that summer.21 

In 2007 Ward managed the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League. In 2011 he moved on to manage the Mobile Bay Bears, the Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate. For two seasons (2011-2012) he managed the team to championships each year, was named the Southern League Manager of the Year in 2011, and later was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2013 he was brought on to be the assistant hitting coach with the Diamondbacks, and has since been the hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. For the 2022 season he was hired as the assistant hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was with the Dodgers that Ward was noticed nationally for his work with Yasiel Puig and Puig’s celebratory kiss of Ward after every home run. “Number one, with any of these guys, I’m really trying to show how much I care – how much I love them, really,” Ward said. “I wanted to hear (Puig’s) story of how he came here from Cuba. I think doing that relationship early and trying to understand him more, that’s only helped it grow.”22

During the 2012 season, Ward received a life-changing call from his wife, Donna. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They had been together since they were teenagers and had three children together – sons Tucker and Olin, and a daughter, Kendall. Donna Ward had 14 surgeries over the next 10 years and as of 2022 was cancer-free. She was taking meticulous notes documenting her journey. In 2020 she became a public speaker and published a book, Unexpected Hope,that has helped others who have been on a similar journey. Together Turner and Donna created the nonprofit Hope 4110 Foundation to help women facing breast cancer and breast reconstruction.

Turner and Donna were married in 1988. “The day we got married was the day Kirk Gibson hit his homer,” Ward said. “We were watching it going into our honeymoon. I always text Gibby and say, ‘Happy anniversary,’ because it’s his anniversary too.”23

Son Tucker, a right-handed pitcher, was selected out of Louisiana Tech University by the Diamondbacks in the 40th round of the 2015 amateur draft and spent three seasons in the Arizona organization. He is now a player agent and CEO of Ward Performance Institute.24



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com.



1 Phone interview with Turner Ward. May 5, 2022. Hereafter Ward Phone Interview.

2 “The Interview Turner Ward,” FOX 10, YouTube.com, January 23, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCnRMsDC_rM

3 Ward phone interview.

4 Ward phone interview.

5 Ward phone interview.

6 Ward phone interview.

7 “Baseball Achievements of Faulkner State College of Bay Minette, Alabama,” https://www.electro-mech.com/team-sports/schools-colleges-states/baseball-achievements-of-faulkner-state-college-of-bay-minette-alabama/.

8 Ward phone interview.

9 Ward phone interview.

10 “Gillis Enters Scouts Hall of Fame in Fort Myers,” milb.com, March 17, 2011. https://www.milb.com/news/gcs-16996156

11 Ward phone interview.

12 Mark Spector, “Stars Have the Talent to Repeat as Champs,” Edmonton Journal, April 8, 1989: G3.

13 Associated Press, “Rickey Has the Right Number,” Windsor (Ontario) Star, August 14, 1993: B2. 

14 Ward phone interview.

15 Ward phone interview.

16 “Ward Crashes Through Wall,” MLB.com, May 2, 1998. https://www.mlb.com/video/ward-crashes-through-wall-c20059165.

17 Ward phone interview.

18 Ward phone interview.

19 Gannett News Service, “For First-Rate Christian Fun, Families Flock to Ballparks’ Visalia (California) Times-Delta, July 22, 2005: 14.  

20 Cary Osborne, “New Dodger Hitting Coach Turner Ward Knows His Lumber,” dodgers.mlblogs.com, January 16, 2016. https://dodgers.mlblogs.com/new-dodger-hitting-coach-turner-ward-knows-his-lumber-efb3e9c4a546.

21 See https://www.thebaseballcube.com/content/stats/minor~2006~10224/.

22 Justin Adams, “Dodgers Hitting Coach Turner Ward Shows Care and Love for His Players by Living His Life for Jesus,” sportsspectrum.com, November 1, 2017. https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/baseball/2017/11/01/dodgers-hitting-coach-turner-ward-shows-care-love-players-living-life-jesus/.

23 David Laurila, “The World Series That Participants Watched as Kids,” Fangraphs.com, October 23, 2018. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-world-series-that-participants-watched-as-kids/.

24 Ward Performance Institute. https://www.wardinc.org/coaches-and-staff.

Full Name

Turner Max Ward


April 11, 1965 at Orlando, FL (USA)

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