Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan keeps his eye on the ball...

Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan keeps his eye on the ball while taking batting practice with the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, July 25, 1990. Jordan hit two homers and said, "I took some pretty good pitches, it was fun." Credit: AP / John Swart

This has all happened already.

A famous athlete from another sport announces he wants to play baseball. He is signed to a minor-league contract. The sports world and media go nuts.

People get upset that he’s even trying it. Baseball is too hard, they say. The guy is too old and hasn’t played baseball since high school, they point out.

Ticket sales will go through the roof when he takes the field, everyone agrees.

This past week it was Tim Tebow, who signed a minor-league contract with the Mets and will begin his professional baseball career in the team’s instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Sept. 18.

In 1994, it was Michael Jordan, who at the time was retired from the NBA after winning three championships and three MVP awards with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan signed with the Chicago White Sox and spent one season in their minor-league system before unretiring in 1995 and winning three more NBA championships and two more MVP trophies.

Jordan already was one of the greatest NBA players in history when he decided to try baseball. Tebow is an unemployed football player who no longer can get a job as an NFL quarterback.

In college, Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time national champion and was chosen as the second-best quarterback ever by the Football Writers Association of America in 2015.

Tebow is 29 and will turn 30 next Aug. 14. Jordan was 30 when he signed with the White Sox on Feb. 7, 1994, and celebrated his 31st birthday 10 days later.

Tebow has not played baseball in 11 years since 2005, when he hit .494 with four home runs and 30 RBIs as a junior for Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Jordan played baseball at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, the same place he was famously cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. Jordan last played baseball there in 1981, so he had a 13-year gap between his high school career and his attempt to play professional baseball.

As baseball players, both Jordan and Tebow stand out because of their size. Jordan was 6-6 and 205 pounds. Tebow is 6-3 and 255 pounds. Jordan, an outfielder, was a righthanded hitter and thrower. Tebow, also an outfielder, is a lefthanded hitter and thrower.

Jordan began his baseball career in spring training with the White Sox before record crowds at Chicago’s facility in Sarasota and around Florida.

Tebow will begin his career in the instructional league, which is a three-week camp that organizations use to give one-on-one training to some of their youngest prospects or to give some extra work to players who are coming back from injury.

The Mets then could choose to send Tebow to the Arizona Fall League, which begins play on Oct. 11. The Fall League is filled with some of baseball’s top prospects. This year the Mets have announced they will send seven players, including September call-up Gavin Cecchini, to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Mets first-base coach Tom Goodwin will manage the team.

If they don’t send Tebow to the AFL, the Mets could have him play outside the country in a winter league.

Jordan ended his baseball career in the 1994 Arizona Fall League after hitting .202 in 127 games for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, who were managed by Terry Francona.

With Birmingham, Jordan hit three home runs, drove in 51 runs, stole 30 bases in 48 attempts and struck out 114 times in 436 at-bats. He made 11 errors.

In the AFL, Jordan hit .252 with eight RBIs and 34 strikeouts in 123 at-bats for the same Scottsdale team to which Tebow would be assigned.

Both Birmingham and Scottsdale set attendance records that season.

Jordan never made it to Comiskey Park, but he did play at Wrigley Field for the White Sox in an exhibition game against the Cubs on April 7, 1994. He went 2-for-5 with a double, two RBIs, an error and a baserunning mistake.

“Who would ever think I would be out there playing in Wrigley Field?” Jordan said.

Jordan said he was going to stick with baseball, but there still was a work stoppage as spring training opened in 1995. Jordan was not going to be a replacement player. So on March 19, 1995, he announced via fax, “I’m back,” meaning he was going to resume his NBA career.

If Tebow’s quest ends short of Citi Field — as most assume it will — he probably won’t be going back to the NFL. Or using a fax machine.


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