Our Minor League Memories feature continues here, and this time we take a look at a few moments from outside the BlueClaws organization. The first has to do with only the best athlete in modern history. The second involves some bad weather.
Back in 1994, the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League had an outfielder described in their media guide by having “played shortstop and pitcher in Little League . . . in 1975 was named ‘Mr. Baseball’ for North Carolina’s 12-year-olds by the Dixie Association. . . .”
His name was Michael Jordan, and he was known for a few other things in sports by then too.
Over 10,000, with 130 media members, came out for his debut in Birmingham, but a few days later, Jordan played his first road game in Chattanooga, in front of current BlueClaws Asst GM Rich Mozingo.
“Between the Jordan bus, and the whole level of excitement of having him in our ballpark, it was amazing,” said Mozingo.
“By Southern League rules, we could put up a temporary fence in the outfield, so we put up an orange snow fence. Fans were literally a foot away from him,” Mozingo recalled. “The stadium capacity was 6,500. The first night we had 10,400 and the next night 11,300.”
Just step back and picture that. Thousands of fans on the field a foot away from Michael Jordan in right field at a Double-A baseball game. It doesn’t even sound right. But it’s true.
We continue in Wilmington, North Carolina back in 2001. Joe Harrington is the General Manager of the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer wood bat baseball league. They have just a 26-game home schedule, so every date is critical. Unfortunately, Mother Nature apparantly didn’t see it that way, as the team lost six (of 13) games due to rain in the first-half of the season.
In a previous job, with the Geneva (NY) Cubs, Harrington’s boss said that he would sleep in the press box until the team finally won a game. This included a night in the Omaha Royals’ press box while attending a wedding in Nebraska.
So Harrington made an off-handed remark, based on the actions of his previous employer, to an intern. This quick thinker threw a line about Harrington sleeping in the press box for a week if they lost a game to rain into a team press release. Sure enough, it rained.
“I had to protest Mother Nature’s treatment of our team,” said Harrington. “The writer called me out on it, but we got some great coverage in the paper and on television.” As if the story needed anything else, his in-laws were in town that week.