His Airness continues quest

Scottsdale ÄThe names on the roster don't really jump out at you.

Mike Bertotti, Walt McKeel, Paul Rappoli Ä guys who hail from minor league baseball teams in cities like Pawtucket, R.I., Sarasota, Fla., Reading, Pa., and New Britain, Conn.

But there's one line on the roster, the fourth line from the bottom, that rings a bell. To put it more bluntly, it annihilates the darn thing.

It reads: 35 Michael Jordan 6-6 210 R R 31 Birmingham.

Jordan is undoubtedly the most well-known, most popular and ... well ... richest person ever to play right field for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Oh, and another thing, he is actually playing pretty well.

With a .343 batting average that is 10th-best in the Arizona Fall League, a team-high 12 hits (through 10 games) and a team-high nine runs scored, it's safe to say that he is improving.

Don't bet the farm, but should the current baseball strike end within the next year or two, Air Jordan has an outside chance of appearing in a Major League Baseball game.

Surprising, if you consider that last spring Sports Illustrated, a publication that used Jordan's basketball videos as an enticement to sell more magazines, ran a cover photo of the former Chicago Bulls megastar swinging and missing a pitch with the kicker: "Bag it, Michael."

Surprising, if you consider that he resumed playing last spring at the age of 31, and hadn't played in some 14 years.

Surprising, if you consider that his play was futile at best while he was with the Birmingham Barons this past year Ä he barely batted his weight and was horrible with the glove.

One of the few people he has failed to surprise has been himself.

"Well, it's progress that I'm here (in Scottsdale) and that you guys never thought I'd be here," Jordan said at the Arizona Fall League's opening-day press conference.

But the criticism is still there, and it comes from a variety of sources nowadays. Sportswriters and other assorted media still bash his play, perhaps in an effort to send him running back to the NBA for cover.

Baseball players continue to tell him he doesn't belong.

"He had better tie his Air Jordans on real tight if I pitch to him," Seattle Mari

ners' pitcher Randy Johnson was once quoted as saying. "I'd like to see just how much air time he'd get on one of my inside pitches."

And get this Ä last Friday night, shortly before the Scorpions' 7 p.m. game against Chandler, this exchange was heard near the Scottsdale dugout.

Little bratty kid: "Can you take this and have Jordan sign it?"

Stadium security guard: "Why don't you ask him yourself? He's pretty busy."

Little bratty kid: "Oh yeah, sure. He's a really good baseball player. It must be hard playing all that golf."

That boy has absolutely no concept of what Jordan has to deal with every day. That boy doesn't understand what it's like to not be able to go to a restaurant for a quiet dinner. He doesn't know what it's like to have to go to a movie 15 minutes late and leave 15 minutes early.

Jordan takes a different escape route after every game. Basically, if he lives a thousand years, he will never, ever know what it's like to walk the streets unrecognized.

So if his name doesn't jump out at you when you scan the roster, he'd probably like it that way.

That's impossible, of course, but it least the criticism should end. Let Jordan be, for crying out loud. If he ends up batting .037 and striking out 100 times this season, he still was more successful during his career than you or I will ever even come close to being in ours.

Th‚oden K. Janes is the sports editor of the 1994-95 Arizona Daily Wildcat. His columns appears every Tuesday.

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