Sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge is on the latest Johnny Bench Award Watch List released Monday.

Around The Bases: Counsell, Lidge & More

May 6, 2015

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — When news broke late Sunday night that former University of Notre Dame baseball standout Craig Counsell was set to become the newest manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Irish fans ran to the history books.

While Counsell is the only Notre Dame alum to become a manager of a Major League Baseball team, he is one of three former Notre Dame students to be charged with the task. The others you ask? National Baseball Hall of Famer Adrian “Cap” Anson, who attended Notre Dame’s college prep school in the 1860’s, and Joe Birmingham, who attended Notre Dame sometime in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

Anson managed the Philadelphia Athletics in 1875, the Chicago White Stockings/Colts from 1879-97 and the New York Giants in 1898. Birmingham, meanwhile, managed the Cleveland Naps from 1912-15.

Counsell was born in South Bend, grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin and then came to Notre Dame where he batted .306 with 18 homers and 166 RBI over a four-year career. After getting drafted in the 11th round by the Colorado Rockies, Counsell went on to have a 16-year MLB career where he batted .255 with 42 homers, 390 RBI, 589 walks and 647 runs scored for five different teams — the Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Brewers.

He was named the 2001 NLCS MVP and won two World Series, one with the Marlins in 1997 and another with the Diamondbacks in 2001. In the 1997 World Series, he tied Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning before scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. In the 2001 World Series, Counsell was hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch that loaded the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who promptly hit a bloop single that won the series for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees.

Counsell played under former Irish head coach Pat Murphy (1988-94), but also got to know former coach Paul Mainieri (1995-2006) when he came back to campus while still in the minor leagues before breaking into the majors.

“Although Craig didn’t play for me and had completed his Notre Dame career before I became coach there, I had a lot of interaction with him during my time as Notre Dame’s coach and while he was playing in the big leagues,” said Mainieri. “He came to campus frequently in the off season and we had many chances to visit and get to know each other. I was always so impressed by him in so many ways…his love of and loyalty to Notre Dame, his intelligence about the game and his personality made him an easy guy to like. Craig is one of those people that you just admire so much and will always find a way to get the job done. I believe he will do an excellent job as the leader of the Brewers.”

Counsell got off to a good start as manager, as the Brewers beat the Dodgers, 4-3, Monday night in his first career game as a manager.

Sophomore Ryan Lidge has turned in an outstanding sophomore campaign and received some national recognition because of it Monday, as the Barrington, Illinois product was named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List.

Lidge, who is hitting .294 with 12 doubles, two homers, 28 RBI, 28 walks, six hit by pitch and 27 runs scored (.406 SLG%, .413 OBP), sports a .990 fielding percentage, has thrown out 15 players attempting to steal and has picked off six others.

Splitting duty at catcher last year with senior Forrest Johnson, Lidge has taken over the primary spot as a sophomore, notching 44 starts in 48 opportunities at the position.

“His improvement from freshman to sophomore year has been enormous in the way in which he is swinging the bat, the way he carries himself around the field, his confidence with what he’s trying to do and accomplish,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “He’s stronger, he’s a little bit quicker, a little bit faster. His confidence to throw behind runners, to go pick guys. He has always been a guy that has an ability to catch and throw, and throw guys out when they’re stealing, but now he has expanded it to picking guys off at first base, back picking a guy at second. He just knows so much more about the game. As his confidence has grown, he is out there trying to be a playmaker rather than just being a manager of the game and I think that part of it has been a really big turnaround for him from last year.”

The semifinalists for the award will be announced May 14, with the finalists announced June 2. The awards presentation is set for June 25 in Wichita, Kansas.

With three more double plays this past weekend, the Irish continue to pace Division I in double plays (62) and double plays per game (1.29).

The total is the second most for an Irish squad since 2007 (65 — 2008) and is the fourth most since 1978.

With a career-high 19 doubles already under his belt, Robert Youngdahl is moving into rare territory in recent Irish baseball history.

The New Brighton, Minnesota native is tied for first with current Arizona Diamondbacks centerfielder A.J. Pollock and current New York Yankees Double-AA player Eric Jagielo for most doubles in a season since 2007, and is two doubles away from moving into a tie for third for most two baggers in a season since 1995.

Sophomore Cavan Biggio has been issued a free pass to first in the form of a walk 43 times this year and is two away from breaking into the top 10 in school history in the category. On his current pace, he could realistically move into the top five all-time by the end of the year.

The Irish welcome in top-25 foe North Carolina for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series this weekend. Game times are set for 7:05 p.m. (ET) Friday, 2:05 p.m. (ET) Saturday and 1:05 p.m. (ET) Sunday. Saturday marks senior day for 12 student-athletes and two senior managers. A pre-game ceremony beginning at 1:45 p.m. (ET) will highlight the day.

–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director