CHICAGO: Michael Bourn may be 31 years old, but he’s still shooting for a star.
A basketball star.
He underwent hamstring surgery in the offseason and missed time at the start of the season with another hamstring issue. But the goal of the Indians’ center fielder is to vertical jump 40 inches before he’s done.
“That was Michael Jordan’s vertical, so I want to try to get it,” Bourn said Wednesday before the Indians faced the Chicago White Sox in the finale of a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.
Bourn said he hasn’t been tested since three offseasons ago, and he hit 38 inches. He said he was standing still, not taking a step or two to gain momentum like he saw a player do at the recent NBA scouting combine.
A baseball and basketball letterman during high school in Houston, Bourn dunked in the winter of 2013 before signing with the Indians, but he wouldn’t let himself go all the way.
“I thought, ‘No, I can’t risk that,’ ” Bourn said. “I was up there, but I was kind of nervous about it.”
Bourn showed he’s still got hops in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox when he leaped high against the fence in right center field to rob Paul Konerko of a two-run home run.
Bourn said he’d been shifted more toward left field until Konerko got to a two-strike count, then bench coach Brad Mills moved him more toward right because Konerko shortens his swing in those situations.
“That helped me make the catch,” Bourn said. “He shortened up, but he still got it real good. I was running back and I had a good bead on it. The timing of the jump was everything.”
Bourn doesn’t know how many times he’s robbed an opponent of a home run, but he believes he did it once his rookie year with the Houston Astros in Baltimore.
“They have a little spring on their [warning track] where you can jump a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t rob too many in Houston, that big old outfield. I did [run up that hill] a few times.”
In his eighth season, Bourn said he didn’t know where this would rank on his all-time highlight list, but admitted, “It’s probably pretty high.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said he once heard Tigers center fielder Torii Hunter in his prime talk about the kick he got out of a catch like Bourn made.
“When a guy makes a play like that, besides the fact you probably get a huge adrenaline rush, the timing of it gave us a chance to win,” Francona said. “So it was huge. If we come back and win, it makes it even bigger.”
Perhaps with a healthy offseason, Bourn will be skying higher in the future.
“Two more inches,” he said, chuckling. “You’ve got to put some work in. Those last 2 inches are the hardest. You’ve got to extra leg press to get that in.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.