"It was a very natural concern," Arnold says. "After visiting with him [ Gillick], I feel very comfortable with Toronto, their willingness to keep their word. I think there's room for both of us and it can be done comfortably. Our commitment to them is to let him practice baseball as soon as the basketball season is over." The school, in fact, has been letting Ainge use its baseball facilities to prepare for the season.
"We want him to have a successful baseball career," Arnold says. "I don't want to mess with him. Nor do I want professional basketball people messing with him. We tell pro scouts that he's in college and he's playing baseball and we want no basketball people talking to him until he's graduated." Which obviously suits Toronto fine. The Blue Jays have been making baseball as attractive as they can to Ainge since Gillick approached him with the offer. The summer he signed, for instance, the team took him on a road trip, as a non-roster player in uniform. " Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle," Ainge recalls. "I worked out with them, took batting practice and infield. I was really impressed."
That following spring, when school was out, he reported to the Jays' Triple A club in Syracuse. Coming off final exams without a spring training, he struggled at first. He threw erratically and was woeful at the plate, hitting .167 the first half of the season. But he came around, and hit .313 in August. One thing troubled him for a time, though. Playing shortstop then, he beat out Hector Torres for the job. "Torres has five kids," Ainge told his dad. "What am I doing here?"
What he was doing was playing second base before very long and going back to school. This year, when the Jays' regular second baseman, David McKay, was playing poorly, Gillick brought up Ainge to replace him. In his second year he had made it to the bigs.
"I wouldn't be up here if it weren't for my basketball," he says. "They know I've done pretty well so far and there's that chance I might play in the NBA. I think that's why they brought me up so early. That had to be a factor, to give me a taste of the majors. They're trying to persuade me to play baseball."
Blue Jay officials say Ainge is mistaken. "Of the fellas that we had," Gillick says, "he was the best ballplayer. McKay was batting around .200."
"Danny used to say he wanted to be a major league baseball player and an All-America basketball player," says his father, himself an accomplished athlete as a youth. "It was his fantasy. He used to talk about it as a kid. I used to go by Wrigley Field [in Los Angeles] and dream about doing it myself. I'm his dad, and I get chills thinking about it."