Jordan remains upbeat on eve of squad's arrival

February 21, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA,FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- For Michael Jordan, the preliminaries end today. Starting tomorrow, the ex-NBA great will get a better idea about spring training -- and his chances of making the transition to baseball.

No more isolated instruction. No more made-to-order batting practice. Starting tomorrow, when the Chicago White Sox hold their first full squad workout, it starts to resemble the real thing. And Jordan's batting practice will be against major-league pitchers getting ready for a championship season.

He says he's ready.

"I've surprised myself," Jordan said yesterday during his second informal meeting with the media. "It's still a long [training] phase, but I will continue to improve day to day."

Yesterday, for the first time since he started hitting outdoors 12 days ago, one of Jordan's drives reached the outfield fence. In a major-league game it probably would've been caught, but that swing became something of a milestone.

Much has been made of the fact that Jordan, who stands 6 feet 6, has yet to hit a ball over the fence -- something that certainly would be expected from an outfielder his size. However, he says his lack of power at this stage doesn't bother him.

"That's going to come," said Jordan. "My goal right now is to make good contact. I feel good about my skills right now."

From outward appearances, Jordan hasn't lost any of his enthusiasm for attempting the shift from basketball to baseball. And he genuinely seems to enjoy the added camaraderie of baseball.

"I'm still very excited -- how often do you get to work and wear shades [sunglasses] at the same time?" he said, injecting some levity into the question-and-answer session. "And I enjoy hanging out with the guys."

Jordan got his first taste of another side of baseball yesterday, when he spent about 15 minutes signing baseballs. It was an impromptu session that he started himself when he told a youngster requesting his signature to throw him the ball.

Immediately, about a dozen baseballs were tossed out of the stands, where a relatively small crowd of about 300 had gathered. Jordan kept his distance from the admiring throng, but dutifully signed each of the balls and managed to get them back into the proper hands.

"I knew I was going to have to deal with it [signing autographs] at some point in time," said Jordan. "But I wanted to do it when it wouldn't create havoc. I'm not a media hound and I didn't want it to look like I was overshadowing [other] players. It won't be an everyday thing."

Jordan said he still hadn't made any decision as to whether he would accept a minor-league assignment if the White Sox asked. "I haven't thought about it. That's something we'll evaluate at the end of six weeks," he said, a clear indication that he expects to be around for the duration of spring training.

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