CHICAGO (CBS) – Michael Jordan’s baseball detour will be featured on this week’s “The Last Dance” documentary.
Before Jordan suited up for the White Sox Double-A team, Birmingham Barons, he had to go through training in Chicago. One of his teachers, New Trier alum Michael Huff played in the White Sox outfield during that time and was recruited to help Jordan learn defensive fundamentals in the winter of 1993.
“Very intimidating those first couple of weeks, but Michael Jordan was very genuine and very sincere about saying, ‘look, I’m the student here. You’re the professional, you’ve been in the major leagues for a handful of years now. You’re that defensive replacement guy, so teach me how to do this the right way,” recalls Huff.
Obviously, Jordan was an amazing basketball player, but baseball was a much different challenge. What did Huff think of Jordan’s chances of making it to the big leagues?
“Initially, not really good. Initially I was thinking, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Everyone sort of gravitates towards his .200 batting average, but if you go back in that Southern League, a very competitive league at the Double-A level. And the first time he’s really picked up a bat and played baseball in like 10-15 years and he had 30 stolen bases. I guarantee there probably weren’t 10 guys in the whole league that had 30 stolen bases. He had over 50 RBI. If you go back and look at every team, there may have been four guys on every team that may have had 50 RBI, not 12 guys,” Huff said.
He continued: “So, it’s hard to say how far he could have gotten. Could he have earned his way to Triple-A the next year if there wasn’t the baseball strike? Could have gotten to a Major League roster? Clearly what I saw was that he was getting better and it would’ve been really neat to see how far, but I think for all of us Chicagoans, it was really neat to see three more Championships on the basketball court.”
When the White Sox asked Huff to work with a baseball player, they didn’t originally tell him who it was. Huff later learned it would be Jordan.