July 2, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame junior righthander Brad Lidge (Englewood, Colo.) signed a professional contract with the Houston Astros organization on July 1 and will forego his senior season at Notre Dame.
Lidge, the 17th overall pick of the first round, attended Thursday’s Astros game versus the Chicago White Sox and was to return to Colorado today before departing on Monday for Davenport, Iowa, where he will join the Astros’ A affiliate, the Quad City River Bandits of the Midwest League.
Quad City was the winner of the first half of the season, in the Midwest League’s four-team Western Division. Lidge will become one of three former Notre Dame players currently on teams in the Midwest League, as 1997 graduate Mike Amrhein is a catcher with the Rockford (Ill.) Cubbies while 1998 graduate J.J. Brock is the starting shortstop for the South Bend Silver Hawks. Quad Cities has no games remaining this season versus South Bend but will host Rockford in an upcoming July 12-15 series.
Lidge is the 10th Notre Dame draft pick to sign with professional baseball following his sophomore or junior year, since the inception of the draft in 1965 (prospective college draft picks currently must be 21 to be eligible for the draft). Another Irish junior, centerfielder Allen Greene, signed in mid-June with the New York Yankees after being selected with their ninth-round pick.
Other Irish players to sign as junior draft picks during the 1990s include righthander Pat Leahy (’92, 6th round, Florida Marlins), shortstop Paul Failla (’94, 3rd round, California Angels), outfielder Ryan Topham (’95, 4th round, Chicago White Sox) and outfielder Scott Sollmann (’96, 7th round, Detroit Tigers) while sophomore righthander Christian Parker signed in ’96 as a fourth-round pick of the Montreal Expos.
Earlier Irish draft picks who signed prior to their senior season include sophomore catcher Ken Plesha (’65, 1st round, Chicago White Sox), junior righthander Nicholas Furlong (’69, 5th round, Cincinnati reds) and junior outfielder Dan Peltier (’89, 3rd round, Texas Rangers).
Lidge and Greene are just the second pair of Irish teammates to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the same draft, joining the 1996 duo of Parker and Sollmann in that distinction. Lidge is the highest-drafted Notre Dame player in 33 years and joined Plesha as the highest-drafted Irish players in the history of the major-league draft (Plesha was drafted with the 17th pick by the White Sox).
Lidge, who entered the Notre Dame program after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 42nd round out of high school, developed during the 1998 season into one of the nation’s most dominant pitchers, becoming the 10th college player and sixth college pitcher selected in the 1998 draft.
Known as a late bloomer and excellent athlete, the 6-3, 200-pound Lidge improved the velocity on his fastball from 88 miles-per-hour as a freshman to as high as 97 mph this season. He was named the 1998 BIG EAST Conference pitcher of the year after totaling a BIG EAST-leading 93 strikeouts in 80.1 innings, second-most in the Notre Dame program’s 107-year history. Lidge finished 1998 with an 8-2 record, winning his final eight decisions, while ranking 12th in the BIG EAST with a 4.15 ERA and seventh with a .240 opponent batting average. He averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 2.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (25 total walks).
Lidge’s first experience as a pitcher didn’t come until the junior year of his high school career, when a talented and crowded outfield prompted a change of position. He went on to earn all-state honors while leading Cherry Creek High School to the 1995 state title and is one of four former CCHS players to be drafted in the first round during the past six years. Lidge’s former high school catcher, sophomore Josh Bard, currently is a teammate of Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust on the USA national team (Bard is coming off an All-America season at Texas Tech).