Dave Schrage - pictured during a recent photo shoot along with his staff - recently welcomed assistant coach Sherard Clinkscales and volunteer assistant John Fitzgerald to the Irish baseball staff.

Catching Up With Dave Schrage (Part II)

Aug. 20, 2006

Notre Dame head baseball coach recently sat down with baseball SID Pete LaFleur for another Q&A session, speaking specifically about new members to his staff and the program’s recent recruiting efforts. A full transcript of coach Schrage’s comments follows below, as does a link to a similar Q&A with new Irish assistant coach Sherard Clinkscales (plus additional ND baseball links from recent weeks).

Q: Well, it must feel gratifying to have assembled a staff that you are so excited about. Can you first discuss Sherard Clinkscales and what attracted you to him for this position?

A: “Sherard brings a unique perspective to college baseball and I like that. He has a lot of good ideas and has been involved in professional baseball for so long – I have a great appreciation for his different perspective and ideas and that will bring an important element to our staff.

“Having played college baseball at Purdue and having to deal with being picked so high in the draft, that’s something that will affect a lot of our players. He is going to be able to bring a good perspective for the players in terms of what professional baseball looks for when drafting players.

“Sherard has played at a high level in college baseball and also played in the Midwest, growing up in Indianapolis. He has a good appreciation of what it takes to develop a championship team in this area of the country.

“He also is a great fit with Notre Dame in terms of his personality – very outgoing and very energetic. He will do a great job recruiting for us. He also has a tremendous amount of contacts throughout the country. Being a scout for so many years with the Atlanta Braves, he has made a lot of contacts. He basically has been around college athletes for the past 10 years or so, that has been his recruiting base.”


Q: Can you discuss your search process to fill this important position?

A: “We really opened up the coaching search for this position and looked seriously at 10 candidates who had a wide variety of experience and different qualities. Some were guys I knew well and some were individuals who I did not know as well, but who came highly recommended by people I respect. We looked at several who already were Division I assistants and at a few who were involved in pro ball.

“Sherard just rose to the top just in terms of his personality and the way he answered our questions in terms of why he wanted to go into college coaching. It’s a unique situation when a guy has worked in pro ball as long as he has and then wants to make that change, and he’s doing it for the right reasons. He has two young children and a wife that he wants to spend more time around and he truly believes in all the good things in college athletics – including the academic standards that we have here at Notre Dame. It really came out in talking to Sherard what a caring individual he is, in terms of how he wants to develop his pitching staff as total student-athletes.”


Q: I know that you also were impressed with his thoughts on pitching.

A: “Being in the Braves organization and being around Leo Mazzone a little bit, Sherard has some of the same philosophies when it comes to pitching. It was very interesting to talk to him about pitching and there were some things that he said in his interview that were very unique – things that I had not heard before and that I really liked. We are going to keep all of that in-house for now but will discuss it publicly later on. I think his philosophy and approach will be something that our pitching staff will enjoy and will get behind with a lot of excitement and effort.

“Sherard had some great references – Dayton Moore, the GM of the Kansas City Royals. Also John Schuerholz, the GM of the Atlanta Braves. He worked for Vince Naimoli, a Notre Dame graduate, in Tampa. We had all great reports on Sherard, not only about his potential ability as a coach but also his work ethic for those organizations and the type of person he is. Those are some people who you are going to respect their opinions.”


Q: And now your staff is complete, with the other recent addition being John Fitzgerald as the volunteer assistant. What are your quick thoughts on the staff in general?

A: “All of our coaches that we have brought in have the same general philosophy – although we definitely are four individuals – and there’s no egos. We all are in this to try to develop the team as baseball players and individuals. That’s going to be a great thing for our kids to experience and for our program in general. Personality-wise, all four of us are a little bit different. John will do a great job or organizing our office, that will be a great plus.”


Q: You had remarked back in late July that you were very impressed with the caliber of applicants you received for the volunteer position. To that point, you ended up hiring an up-and-coming young coach who has been a the head coach for the past three year at Illinois Tech, with some impressive results give the situation there. What are your thoughts on what John will bring to the program?

A: “As you said, the exciting thing in adding John Fitzgerald was that we were able to bring someone in who has been a head coach in college. John is extremely bright and has tremendous computer skills, plus he has been a head coach. We are going to involve him more in the program than the volunteer has been in the past. He will be basically a full-time head coach and will be very valuable to the program. He also will be running our various baseball camps and the preseason dinner and be a general office organizer, in addition to helping coach the team – catchers, outfielders and even helping a bit with the pitchers. He is an extremely organized guy and hard worker.

“The thing that impressed me about John, although he can’t recruit off-campus for us, he was always at games recruiting for his Illinois Tech program. His work ethic really stands out and he was someone I had met before on the recruiting trails. I always respect guys who outcoach their resources and John is definitely one of those guys.

“Illinois Tech is right across from U.S. Cellular where the White Sox play, in downtown Chicago. The campus life at Illinois Tech is so-so and it’s extremely tough to get guys in because it’s a tremendous academic school. He was able to find his niche with kids and really develop that program.”


Q: We will be checking in with you in a couple of weeks, as the team starts to assemble. Can you give us an update on the past few weeks for you and the other coaches?

A: “I have been out doing some home visits and we are getting some great response from the recruits. Scott Lawler was out on the west coast at the Area Code Games and Sherard was at the Academic Showcase in Richmond, so we still are very heavily in recruiting right now before school begins. We were all together this past week and sat down to start planning out the fall, in addition to the freshmen coming in this week. It will get rolling here pretty soon, when the veterans get back in town. We all are very excited to get the fall season started.”