I was sitting at home watching ESPN’s 30 for 30, going down the nostalgia highway. This time I was reminded of the summer of 1994.
The documentary centered around the baseball career of one Michael Jordan. If you remember, His Airness walked away from basketball to follow a dream, which was playing baseball.
After the tragic death of his father, Jordan decided to hang up the sneakers. It was a move that shocked the sports world. Jordan actually considered retirement early on, after the 1992 season. He lost some of the desire to play, but found the desire again in another sport.
He signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox, who was also owned by Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Soon after, Jordan was a member of the Birmingham Barons, the Double A affiliate of the White Sox. He also played for Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.
The fanfare followed Jordan throughout his brief baseball career. However, the move to the diamond was also somewhat of an escape for Jordan. Playing baseball was a dream of his late father, who always imagined his son being a major leaguer. You can’t fault the move, I never did.
His numbers weren’t that stellar on paper: .202 BA, 5 HR, 50 RBI and 30 SB. But if you think about it, they were really amazing. After players are drafted and signed, they usually start their pro career in Rookie Ball or Single A. That’s basically where they learn to play at a major league level. Jordan didn’t have that luxury. While he was learning the game, he was facing pitchers with major league stuff. There is a big difference.
Without the switch to baseball, we may not have seen the Jordan we did once he stepped back onto the court in 1995. The desire to win and succeed were back, and I believe it was revived thanks to those long bus rides and learning experiences in the minors.
I remember watching Jordan struggle at first with the switch to baseball. I also remember watching him soon pick it up after only a couple of months. It was a testament of how great an athlete he really was.
Now, Jordan spends plenty of time playing another sport, which is golf. But a few of us will always remember the defying gravity plays on the court. And the chance to see someone lay it all on the line to follow a dream on a field.
Written by C. James
*Side note: Red Sox manager Terry Francona was also Jordan’s manager in Birmingham.