Michael Jordan wanted to be the best at baseball, too.
Rob Neyer has a fascinating oral history for Complex of Michael Jordan’s brief foray into baseball. The piece offers perspective from the Jordan’s teammates, coaches, opponents and the media members who covered him, discussing everything from his attitude to which strip clubs he hung out at.
The thing that becomes most abundantly clear is how hard Jordan worked to be the best baseball player he could. Three anecdotes in particular highlight the lengths M.J. went to in order to improve.
He swung until his hands couldn’t take it anymore
During his first spring training, Jordan biographer George Koehler tells Neyer, Mike would hit in the cage for an hour to 90 minutes before practice, then he’d go through the full three-hour practice. After practice, he was back in the cage, swinging for another half-hour to hour. Having not swung a bat in 13 years, the constant hitting left Jordan’s hands raw.
If you haven’t swung a baseball bat in a while and decided to pick one up and swing it for 15 minutes, your hands would have blisters. His hands were so raw from taking flips that the calluses would rip open every day.
When he came off the field, I don’t know how he could have held anything, much less a bat. The trainers would put a clear, rubberized patch over the inside of his hands. Then they would wrap his hands in gauze and tape. He looked like a prizefighter.
He took batting practice after games
From Barons teammate Scott Tedder:
He worked so hard. He would come in for early work in batting practice. Then if he didn’t have a good game, he’d stay for BP after the game. He’d still be out there hitting at 11 p.m.
He worked just as hard in the fall league
After the season, Jordan was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where teams send their top prospects. Playing against stiffer competition, Jordan sought help from hitting coach Bob Herold. The two worked together one night after a game and Jordan came back the next morning for more instruction.
The next morning, he shows up early. I was working with three other guys: Larry Sutton, Joe Randa, and Gregg Zaun. That first day, these guys all defer to him. And I said, “Nope, whoever got here first, goes first.” And from that day on, he was always the first guy there.
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