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8.06.2008

Ainge Waivers on Baseball Commitment

Danny Ainge, who shunned a million-dollar pro basketball career to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, may be wavering in his commitment to baseball.

The cause: a seven-week-long baseball strike that Ainge admitted took some fun out of the sport for him.

"I'll say this much. During the strike, I had thoughts of playing basketball," Ainge said Friday night before taking the field for an exhibition game against the New York Mets.

Ainge is in the first year of a three-year deal with the Blue Jays. A clause in his contract prohibits him from playing competitive basketball while playing for Toronto.

Ainge, a first-team basketball All-America out of Brigham Young, was drafted in the second round by the NBA's Boston Celtics. He answered, "no comment," when asked if he's talked with anyone in the NBA since the start of the baseball strike.

As a 6-foot-4 guard for the Cougars in his senior season, Ainge led his team to the 1981 NCAA East Regionals, where BYU defeated Notre Dame, 51-50, before losing in the regional final to Virginia, 74-60.

At the conclusion of the NBA draft early last month, Celtic general manager Red Auerbach said, "We all know if Ainge was completely available, he'd go high. We had a lot of offers for that 31st pick, and we turned them down. You don't turn down offers to play games. We think we have a shot at him."

In the past, while refusing to rule out the possibility of an NBA career, Ainge has maintained steadfastly that his first love was baseball. He is considered a fine fielding third baseman, but so far has been unable to break the .250 barrier in hitting.

"The strike made me realize how much a business baseball really is," Ainge said. "I've always looked at the game as being fun, but I guess when there's that much money involved, you have to know it's a business, especially when you're out that long over an issue that should have been resolved."

Ainge, born in Eugene, Ore., but now living with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ashlee, in Provo, Utah, said he felt the game itself would recover unscarred from the strike.

"As far as I can see, there are no negatives for baseball coming out of this strike," he said. He added that while some teams' players may harbor a lingering bitterness for management, that was not the case on the Blue Jays.

"We didn't have anyone really that directly involved in the negotiations," Ainge said. "I sure don't see any bitterness here."

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