July 5, 2000

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame baseball signee Bob Keppel (Chesterfield, Mo.) has elected to pass up his college eligibility, as the New York Mets formally announced on Friday that the promising righthanded pitcher has signed with the major league club.

Keppel-one of six high school players to sign with Notre Dame in the fall of 1999-turned in a strong 2000 season with DeSmet High School (located in the St. Louis area) and was selected by the Mets with the 36th overall pick in the June 5 draft, as a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds.

Had he elected to attend Notre Dame, Keppel would have been a top contender to help fill the starting void left by departed senior righthander Scott Cavey. The Irish also could lose their ace pitcher from the 2000 season, as three-time All-America righthander Aaron Heilman has yet to decide whether he will return for his senior season or sign with the Minnesota Twins (Heilman also was selected with a compensatory pick-31st overall-in the supplemental portion between the first and second rounds of the 2000 draft).

” Unfortunately, we have been here before and it never gets any easier,” said seventh-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri, whose Irish baseball program has lost six recruits and seven other draft-eligible players to professional baseball before they completed their eligibility at Notre Dame. “After working hard to sign a talented class, it’s always tough to lose a player to the lure of big money. This process continues to damage college baseball, but it’s a state of the times.

“We obviously saw some great potential in Bob when we signed him last fall and he continued to impress the scouts when the spring season rolled around ,” added Mainieri, whose squad is set to return six of nine starting offensive players and as many as 10 pitchers from a 2000 team that went 46-18 and advanced to the NCAA tournament. “We still feel very confident with the pitchers who are remaining for the 2001 season and have a tremendous group of returning position players-in addition to some talented newcomers-who will help lead the team in the field and at the plate.”

Keppel’s 2000 season at DeSmet included an 8-2 record and 1.78 ERA in 11 starts. The 6-5, 195-pounder tossed six complete games and three shutouts while posting 92 strikeouts, 22 walks and 48 hits allowed in 63 innings.

Keppel-whose parents both are graduates of Notre Dame-reportedly worked out for the Mets at Shea Stadium on June 30 and was assigned to rookie-league ball, as a member of the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets in the Appalachian League.

Notre Dame has lost five other signees to pro baseball in the last six years: RHP Ryan Dempster (’95, 2nd round, Texas Rangers, traded to the Florida Marlins), 1B A.J. Zapp (’96, 1st rd, Atlanta Braves), C Camron Hahn (’97, 2nd rd, Houston Astros), OF Michael Restovich (’97, 2nd rd, Minnesota Twins) and RHP Pat O’Brien (’99, 39th rd, Pittsburgh Pirates).

The seven Notre Dame players who recently have bypassed remaining eligibility with the Irish after being selected in the Major League amateur draft include: OF Ryan Topham (’95, 4th rd, Chicago White Sox), RHP Christian Parker (’96, 4th rd, Montreal Expos), CF Scott Sollmann (’96, 7th rd, Detroit Tigers), RHP Brad Lidge (’98, 1st rd, Houston Astros), OF Allen Greene (’98, 10th rd, N.Y. Yankees), IF Brant Ust (’99, 6th rd, Detroit) and LHP Tim Kalita (’99, 7th rd, Detroit). All of the above players left after their junior year, with the exception of Parker (who met the minimum college draft age limit of 21 following his sophomore season).