Wednesday, January 13, 1999
MJ failed atBy Al Chase
did not lack effort
When Michael Jordan tried his hand at professional baseball in 1994 during a one-year hiatus from the NBA, he worked as diligently learning hardball as he did playing roundball.
"The incredible thing was he made a legitimate effort to get better," said Mike Lum, the Chicago White Sox roving hitting instructor. "He would be out early doing hitting drills. He tried to learn and educate himself on how to play the game.
"Baseball is a game of instincts. You have to grow up playing the game to learn those instincts."
Jordan's baseball experience was limited when he retired from the Chicago Bulls the first time and subsequently signed a free-agent contract with the White Sox. At age 31, he began his professional baseball career with Birmingham of the Double-A Southern League. He struggled, but persisted.
"I remember one night in Birmingham when he had a bad night at the plate. He was in the batting cage by himself after the game hitting off the tee," said Lum, a Roosevelt High School graduate.
"He took it very seriously. If he wasn't serious, he wouldn't have been in that batting cage. And it wasn't just hitting. He had to learn to run the bases, to learn situations. It was the same thing in the outfield. It's not just going out there and catching the ball."
Jordan played the full season at Birmingham and finished with a batting average just over .200. He also stole a couple of bases.
"It was something to jump in at the Double-A level and do what he did," Lum said. "You could see improvement at the end of the year. He wasn't a polished player, but he was a little better and that was due to his hard work and determination.
"I think he made the right choice to stay with basketball."