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In the world of sports, it’s tough to imagine any coach being too upset with Michael Jordan. Sure, the living NBA legend could cross the line at times — punching a teammate isn’t the best idea — but he was more than capable of making up for any transgression on the hardwood. If winning solves a team’s problems, then MJ possessed the ultimate trump card.

On the baseball diamond, however, things were a bit different.

As longtime fans will know, Jordan posted a .202 batting average during his time playing minor league ball in Birmingham. While that’s generally seen as a pretty impressive mark since His Airness had focused his efforts on playing high-level basketball, that sentiment isn’t universal. In fact, his hitting coach actually viewed that stat as a disappointment.

Michael Jordan did all the right things, but his hitting coach still thought that he would have done better

Michael Jordan sits in the Chicago White Sox dugout during Spring Training.
Michael Jordan’s minor league batting average didn’t impress one of his coaches. | Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images

If you know one thing about Michael Jordan, it’s probably that he had a relentless will to win and was willing to do whatever it took to reach the top of the mountain. He might have come up a bit short during his time on the baseball diamond, but that didn’t mean that MJ didn’t try.

Within the White Sox organization, there were multiple people on the case. Athletic trainer Herm Schneider gave Jordan some workouts for his core and hands; outfielder Mike Huff provided a defensive crash course. Walt Hriniak, the club’s hitting guru, provided lessons in arguably the toughest area of all.

Hriniak wasn’t going to roll out the red carpet for Jordan, though. He expected the NBA star to work, and Mike was happy to comply. Allow Anthony Castrovince of to explain.

“I just want to know one thing,” Hriniak asked him. “Are you serious about this?”

“Dead serious,” Jordan replied.

“All right,” Hriniak said. “If you want some help, I’ve got time in the cage for extra hitting practice at 7 a.m. If you’re one second late, you don’t hit.”

Jordan never missed a day, and he was never late.

Anthony Castrovince

And with that extra work under his belt, Jordan posted a .202 batting average. While that’s generally seen as quite the feat and evidence that he could have shone on the diamond, Hriniak held a different perspective.

“I didn’t expect him to tear it up,” Hriniak says, “but I expected him to do better.”

With that being said, though, his memories of MJ weren’t completely negative.

“If everybody was like MJ,” says Hriniak, “the game would be better.”

Anthony Castrovince

And while there’s a variety of different things you can take away from that memory, I’d point you to a lesson about success and failure. As the cliche says, baseball is a sport where you can fail seven-tenths of the time and still be a legend; Michael Jordan, however, pushes things a bit further.

In this case, the living NBA legend broke the link between on-field success and the (admittedly amorphous) idea of doing things the right way. He pushed himself and did the work behind the scenes, and his results disappointed Hriniak. With that being said, though, his process still won the hitting coach over.

Would that have been enough to satisfy someone as famously competitive as Michael Jordan? Probably not. But, in this case, how he played the game did matter.

And, as Pollyanna as it may sound, that’s something we can all stand to remember.


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