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JORDAN HITS 1ST HOMER AS A PRO

Former NBA great Michael Jordan hit the first home run of his pro baseball career Saturday night, then pointed to the sky as he crossed home plate in a tribute to his father who was murdered last year.

Jordan's solo homer, a line drive to left field in the eighth inning estimated at 380 feet, helped the Birmingham Barons to a 6-1 win over the Carolina Mudcats in the Southern League.Jordan's mother, wife, brother and sister were among the crowd of 13,751, the largest at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium since it opened on April 16, 1988.

"Once I got across the plate, I just kind of paid tribute to my father," said Jordan, who was given a wild standing ovation by the crowd and was mobbed at home plate by the entire Barons team. "I was going to point up to him and say that was for you. It was a great feeling."

In two previous at-bats, Jordan came close to hitting the ball out. He flied out in the fourth to the edge of the warning track in dead center field, then doubled on one bounce off the wall in the sixth.

In his best offensive game in a tough season at the plate, Jordan went 2-for-4 with two RBI and is now batting .189.

The home run came on a 2-0 fastball from reliever Kevin Rychel.

"I knew the pitcher was a fastball pitcher, and I was looking fastball," Jordan said. "Once I saw that pitch, I made a pretty good turn and I hit it really solid. Once I hit it, I knew it was gone. . . . It was a great feeling."

Jordan, who quit basketball to try for a professional baseball career, said the home run was the best tribute he could give his father, James, who would have celebrated a birthday Sunday.

"That's the best birthday present I could give him," Jordan said. "It still makes me kind of emotional because I wish he was here to see it. But I know he saw it. . . . It couldn't have happened on a better day."