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Danny Ainge On Michael Jordan's MLB Chances: 'It's A Longshot'

This story initially appeared in Baseball America's March 1994 issue in conjunction with a full scouting report on Michael Jordan the baseball player. 

PHOENIX -- Danny Ainge has been there: from hardcourt to hard times and back.

The guard for the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns knows baseball isn't easy, even for such a prodigious athlete as Michael Jordan.

"I think Michael could go out there and play good defense, not miss a beat on the basepaths and yet at the plate have some good moments and some horrible moments," says Ainge, who batted .220 in 211 games for the Blue Jays from 1979-81.

"I think the success that Michael has had in one spot, his maturity level and his athletic ability, i think a lot of that would help. But that doesn't necessarily translate into a superstar.

"I think Michael would have the biggest adjustment dealing with the baseball mentality. Michael is used to success, night in and night out. A bad game for him might be 25 points and shooting 35 percent from the field.

"Now a bad night could translate into 0-for-5 and striking out for times, which is very realistic. How do you deal with that?"

Ainge was a 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in June 1977, and signed a baseball contract that allowed him to play college basketball at Brigham Young University. After the Boston Celtics took him in the second round of the 1981 NBA draft, he decided to pursue basketball. The Celtics wont a legal battle with the Blue Jays for the services of Ainge, who signed a 1980 contract in which he agreed to forsake hoops.

The last time Ainge saw Jordan was in the 1993 NBA Finals, when Jordan's Chicago Bulls beat the Suns, four games to two.

"If Michael had decided he wanted to be a baseball player at age 20 or 21, I think he would have been a major league player," Ainge says.

"He's 30 now. Maybe not this summer, but the following summer, if someone is willing to stick with him and gamble on him and live with the errors and the strikeouts and so forth, I think he could play.

"If he was on some sort of expansion team, they might be able to be a little more patient and give him time to develop into a player. It seems like a longshot, what he is trying to accomplish, with the circumstances he is in now.

"I think it's a real longshot, and at the same time I think it's exciting and I'm rooting for him. It's kind of fun. It would be of the great stories in sports history.

"I'd pay to watch him play."


1977 Draft Spotlight: Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge was the rare athlete with legitimate ability to play at the highest level in both baseball and basketball

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