2007 UD Masterpieces #46 Michael Jordan (White Sox)
Today is a landmark day in the baseball season.
For the first time, I'll get to see the Cubs and White Sox play a spring training game. WGN is picking up this afternoon's Cubs-Sox contest.
You know baseball season has officially arrived when you get to see your favorite hometown player on the ballfield. For me, that moment will be when I get to see Marlon Byrd and Adam Dunn. (Dunn is still my favorite Sox player, regardless of what happened last year.)
But I also look forward to seeing all the bright young Cubs and Sox prospects each year. I've never gotten a chance to see many of them play before.
Last spring, I was introduced to the fastest guy I've ever seen on a baseball field. Tony Campana. If the Cubs ever play a team in your area and Campana is in the lineup, put down what you're doing and watch his at-bat, because he's got a set of wheels. Now, if only he could get on base a little more...
Perhaps the most famous "prospect" to arrive at camp in spring training history was Michael Jordan. I was only two years old at the time, but I'm sure that Jordan announcing his retirement from basketball in his prime was one of the most shocking events in sports history.
Jordan left the NBA to pursue a career in baseball with the White Sox. I remember reading once that it was his dad's dream for him to become a baseball player.
Not surprisingly, the Sox assigned him to the minors out of spring training, down to AA Birmingham. He played just one year in the minors (along with a stint in the Arizona Fall League after the season ended).
His .202 average in his lone year in the minors might not seem great at first glance. However, considering he hadn't played a lick of competitive baseball since high school, .202 is pretty noteworthy when you think about it.
Even more astounding is the fact that he actually hit three homers that season.
Wisely, however, he decided to go back into basketball the following year. We know the rest.
From what I've read, I'm not sure that there's ever been a crazier year in spring training than the year Michael Jordan began his big-league career. However, spring training has always meant one thing to me, year in and year out.
It's the sign that baseball has arrived.