Tonight marks the conclusion of The Last Dance, ESPN’s incredible 10-part documentary about Michael Jordan. Before you sit down to watch the ninth and tenth installments, we wanted to take a quick, localized look back at last Sunday’s subject matter. Specially, we want to focus on Jordan’s brief Minor League Baseball stint.
MJ spent 1994 with the Birmingham Barons, the double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. While there, “His Airness” managed a less-than-spectacular .202 batting average and 114 strikeouts, along with a somewhat impressive 30 steals and 51 RBI. During his one and only season in professional baseball, Jordan also crossed paths with a number of future Major League players, including a few prospects who would wind up on the Milwaukee Brewers.
In addition to playing against future Brewers position players like Damian Miller, Jason Kendall, Brooks Kieschnick (before he transitioned back to a part-time pitcher), and Tony Graffanino, Jordan also faced a pair of pitchers who would eventually take the mound in Milwaukee. One of them is Ron Villone, a hurler who would make his big league debut in 1995 and spend 15 years—mostly as a reliever—with 12 teams, including parts of two seasons with Milwaukee in 1996 and 1997. The other pitcher, LaTroy Hawkins, managed a far more impressive Major League career, including a pair of seasons in Milwaukee in 2010 and 2011. He also has a pretty neat story about playing against Jordan.
Hawkins, who was a trusted part of the bullpen during the Brew Crew’s unforgettable 2011 season, played against Jordan and the Barons when he was a member of the Nashville Xpress in 1994. A few years ago, Hawkins talked about meeting Jordan outside a ballpark and facing him on the diamond during a “Diamond Stories” segment that aired on FOX Sports North. Though 1994 Southern League game logs aren’t easy to come by (believe us…we’ve looked!), Hawkins says he only gave up one base hit to Jordan over the course of five at-bats that season. He also claims he picked MJ off at first base. You can listen to the former Brewers pitcher talk about meeting Jordan, pitching against him, and running into him in New York many years later in the clip below.