John (Jay) F. Ward grew up mostly in Missouri but graduated from high school in Illinois. He attended McKendree College on a basketball scholarship, then signed his first professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees the spring of his freshman year in 1957.
Jay played a total of 17 years in professional baseball playing for several different minor league organizations throughout his career. He spent one season in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons. His short major league career was with the Minnesota Twins and the Cincinnati Reds. Jay was always quick to say that he wished he would have known the ProStride Hitting Process when he was a player so that his MLB career could have been a little longer and a lot more productive.
The year after retiring as a player Jay managed a single A team for Minnesota and then decided to retire from baseball in 1971 to run his cattle ranch in Missouri and spend time helping raise his family. In 1983, Jay returned to baseball as a minor league manager where he had great success with developing players and hitters, which he really enjoyed. His skills as a manager and coach did not go unrecognized and the New York Yankees called on him to become their MLB hitting coach in 1987. Jay struggled with the fact that he enjoyed managing (putting up over 700 professional wins as a professional manger) but his most recognized skill was his success in teaching players the art of hitting a baseball.
In addition to coaching with the NY Yankees, Ward also worked with several different organizations including the Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Reds, Expos and Braves where he coached and eventually acted in a coordinator capacity overseeing the hitting and training in several of these organizations. During his years with the Expos Jay was back in the big leagues as their MLB Hitting Coach. During these years of coordinating the hitting of entire organizations is when he perfected what is now known as "The ProStride Hitting Process" so that one single teaching system could work with all hitters and coaches inside the organization. To our knowledge Jay was the first of his kind to act in a Hitting Coordinator capacity for an entire professional organization. His success in this capacity was very unique and he was highly regarded thoughout the inner baseball circles as a true expert.
During the off-season Jay and his wife Lynn lived in St. Petersburg, FL. He enjoyed his time off fishing but stayed involved with baseball as he would travel to instruct at clinics across the US. In 1988 Jay, his son Barry & Wade Boggs (who worked with Ward during the winter off-season) decided to organize and open a hitting school which was held at the Casey Stengel Field/Complex in St. Petersburg. The school was extremely successful and was attended by professional, college and high school players who would travel in for 3-5 day instructional sessions in their off season. The school was helpful in turning around the careers of quite a number of players including John Vander Wal and now MLB Hitting Coach for the 2013 World Series winning Boston Red Sox Greg Colbrunn.
Gary Denbo, who had played for Jay in the Red’s organization, joined the hitting school, learned the ProStride Hitting Process and went on to use his talents and new knowledge to very quickly expand his career. Gary soon became the NY Yankees MLB Hitting Coach for several years, the MLB Hitting Coach for the Toronto Blue Jays for 2 years, and the Hitting Coach for a professional team in Japan for 2 years. He is now back with the NY Yankees and oversees the organization's minor league system under the position of Vice President, Player Development.
In 1995, Jay retired to Montana with his wife Lynn where he loved the outdoors and the time he could spend hunting and fishing. Missing the game, he decided to continue managing baseball teams in the Northern League and Independent League in Canada for the next six summers.
Jay was known by all as a great family man, with a real passion for baseball. He was truly a “coach” who enjoyed teaching and sharing his passion for the game of baseball with others; he was admired by his players as a real “Player’s Coach”. The ProStride Hitting Process will live on as a legacy of his professional work. We thank him for leaving us with something that will have such a positive impact on so many kids and young men's lives.