THE JORDAN BUSINESS

Jordan was asked how it felt to go from a sport where he was best at everything he did to one where he had to be taught.

"You just have to be patient," he said. "I never thought I was too big to learn even though I was successful in one area. I'm not embarrassed that I'm the last man on this team. Part of the challenge for me is prove the naysayers to be wrong."

Jordan thinks basketball is a more difficult game to play.
"Athletically and physically, basketball is harder, but I think this game is harder on you mentally. You have to deal with a lot of disappointments in this game."

But even Jordan himself doesn't know where he stands right now as a baseball player.

"I guess that's the purpose of my being here--to see where I stand against the competition. I've taken in a lot of information over the past year, so much so that I had to take two weeks off just to comprehend what I learned."

There were 70 members of the press on hand when Jordan made his debut at Tempe Diablo Stadium at the start of the Arizona Fall League. Writers from around the country drop in on a regular basis to see how Jordan is doing and whether he's worth a story. He hasn't been that good, but he hasn't been so awful that people were willing to write him off.

The question everyone keeps asking is the same: Why is he doing this to himself? Perhaps Dave Garlick has been closer to the situation than anyone else. A freelance sportswriter, he has come to the game to watch Jordan and to file a report for the Mesa Tribune each day.

Garlick knows baseball. He covered the minor league team in Indianapolis for seven years while working for an Indianapolis paper.

"It's really strange," Garlick said, "to come to a ball game and just watch one guy. I go to see him after every game and ask him about what he's done. Luckily, there has always been something I could ask about.

"On some nights, my question might have to be general, like asking how the pitching here compares to what he saw in Birmingham. The other night, I noticed they were busting him inside with fastballs, so I asked him about that. He's very polite. I think he's actually improved since he came to Arizona. Still, all but one of his hits have been ground balls that found a hole.

"The other night I saw him get his first triple, a shot to left center. The significant thing was that there were two strikes on him and the pitcher made a good pitch which Michael managed to foul off. So he got to swing again. Just making the adjustment to foul off that pitch shows improvement.

"In all the years I covered Triple A ball, I saw lots of guys who couldn't run the bases as well as him. And in some ways, he's better than a lot of players in this league."

Garlick smiled.
"There's one thing I can't get over. It happens every game, but I'm still surprised that every time he makes a routine catch in the outfield, he gets a standing ovation."

What will happen to Jordan's baseball career?
Garlick thinks he will probably be sent to the White Sox Triple A farm team at Nashville next season and then on up to Chicago with the big club later in the season.

It is 1 p.m. The game with Tempe is about to begin for Scottsdale. Jordan comes out of the Scorpions dugout. Once again, he stands there for a moment as if counting the house. It is a small crowd. The Cowboys and Cardinals are playing in nearby Sun Devil Stadium.

Jordan jogs across the first-base line, being very careful not to step on it. There is a baseball superstition that stepping on the chalk line is bad luck.

The umpire cries, "Play ball!" Jordan stands before a sign on the outfield wall advertising a place called Hooters. Up on the television monitor in the press box, I see the opening kickoff of the Cardinals game on the tube.

Michael Jordan is playing before fewer than a thousand people. Buddy Ryan is stalking the sidelines before one of the largest crowds in Cardinal history.

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