Off Court

Pete Sampras Swings With Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) August 7, 2000 - Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras traded his high-tech racquet for some old-fashioned wood Monday, taking a brief round of batting practice with the Cincinnati Reds.

He hit a line drive over second base the first time he made contact, had a few awkward swings and achieved his primary goal - he didn't hurt or embarrass himself.

"I know my place on earth is not on the baseball field,'' Sampras said.

Jim Courier and other tennis stars have taken batting practice with the Reds over the years when a homestand coincided with the ATP Championship in nearby Mason.

Sampras had a bye Monday in the tournament, now the Masters Series-Cincinnati. He knows Ken Griffey Jr. and was glad to get a firsthand feel for what it's like to swing with major leaguers.

Dressed in tennis shoes, shorts and shirt but no batting helmet, Sampras stood in the batting cage for about five minutes before the Reds' regulars took over. He said he'd never done anything like it.

Batting right-handed, he hit the ball several times and lunged and missed pitches at other times.

"I'm healthy. That's the main thing,'' he said. ``I didn't want to hurt my back.''

When Sampras hit the line drive on first contact, Griffey - standing beside the cage - sounded impressed.

"We can send you to rookie ball,'' Griffey yelled out. ``You'll take a pay cut but don't worry about it.''

AP-NY-08-07-00 1939EDT



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