In this Sweet 16 edition of Through The Fence Baseball, we take a look at the career of Danny Ainge and his brief stint as a major league baseball player.
For those of you who have managed to turn off some of those unwatchable preseason baseball games, you know that Ainge’s alma mater Brigham Young University is in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament today against Florida. The Cougars are led by some kid who actually goes by the name of Jimmer Fredette.
Now the last time the Cougars made it this far in the tournament was way back in 1981 when – you guessed it, Ainge was the shooting guard. That year he was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, a first All-American and John Wooden Award winner. Ainge later went on to a very successful 14-year NBA career winning two NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in 1984 and 1986, and was an all-star. After retirement Ainge was the head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 1996-99 and is currently the President of Basketball Operation for the Celtics. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2008 after the Celtics won their 17th NBA championship giving him his third ring.
Ainge was one of those rare athletic anomalies. Born and raised in Eugene, Ore., is the first and only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, baseball and basketball while attending North Eugene High School in 1977. But his major league baseball career was nothing like his pro basketball career.
Ainge was drafted in the 15th round by the Toronto Blue Jays as the 389th overall pick in the 1977 Amateur Draft while still playing college basketball. But you have to wonder what was he thinking? This is the same 1977 draft that was loaded with talent and featured hall of famers Ozzie Smith and Paul Molitor. It also included a variety of and all-stars and World Series champions such as Harold Baines (the first overall pick by the Chicago White Sox), Terry Kennedy, Richard Dotson, Bob Welch, Dave Henderson, Scott Sanderson, Terry Francona (who won two World Series titles as manager of the Boston Red Sox), Tim Raines, Jesse Barfield, Chili Davis, Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson, Brian Harper, and Tony Phillips. Phillips played for 18 years and was drafted a round behind Ainge.
But to his credit, Ainge actually made it to the majors, but it was pretty forgettable. He played in the outfield, third base and mostly second base during his three years all with the Blue Jays. Ainge batted a lousy .220 with two home runs, 37 runs batted in and 146 hits in 211 games. On the bright side, the first of those two home runs still stands as the record for the youngest player in team history to hit a homer at 20 years and 77 days old. But Ainge was no fool and decided that a career in the NBA would be a better choice, and luckily for him the Celtics were kind enough to buy out his contract with Blue Jays after a legal battle.
With stats like his the Blue Jays should have paid the Celtics!