Sept. 24, 2010

Notre Dame first-year assistant baseball coach Jesse Woods recently sat down for a Q&A session, speaking specifically about the program’s recent recruiting efforts and coaching style. A full transcript of coach Woods’ comments follows below.

Q: How have you mapped out you first order of business since joining the staff?

A: My first order of business was to get on the road recruiting for Notre Dame, and to make sure even though we got here late in the recruiting process, to make sure we were bringing in a high caliber class. We want to make sure that we bring in a class in this 2011 graduating class that can impact this program. My first mindset was to get on the road and find the type of player that can impact this program the right away.

Q: What do you look for in a player?

A: The tools are important. If we are going to be the type of program that we want to be, obviously, the tools need to jump out at us. We need to bring in the type of player that can elevate this program. I think what we also do is put an emphasis on the intangibles. Throughout the recruiting process, we need to make sure that those intangibles come out when we are watching a kid play. There are certain things like seeing how important the team is to that particular player, seeing how important winning is, etc. Does he put an emphasis on himself, or is that emphasis coupled with how the team is performing? What type of teammate is he? We want to make sure we are bringing in the type of player that will put Irish baseball before anything else. And to us, that is as important as how much talent the player possesses.

Q: You have had a reputation of taking a kid that maybe wasn’t as high profile, and developing him to contribute at the highest level. How do you evaluate upside or predictability? Is it something that you can literally see? How does that process work?

A: When you are recruiting a kid that is talented enough for this program you have to do your homework on the makeup of that particular player. He has to be the type of kid that wants to get better every single day. Because in a program, if that particular player is choosing to work hard every single day, then Irish baseball is getting better every single day. And if 35 guys have that same mindset then every day we take the field, every day we are in our lifts or conditioning program, and every day in the classroom and in the community then Irish baseball is progressing. To us, we really put an emphasis on that type of person and that type of player.

Q: When you hit the road for the first time recruiting for Notre Dame, did you have a what many Irish coaches call a ‘Notre Dame moment’?

A: I think that when you put on anything that has the ND monogram, people are drawn to you. There’s invested interest throughout this country in Notre Dame athletics, and that’s part of the exciting draw here at Notre Dame. No matter where you are in this country, people are drawn to your program. There’s an unparalleled interest level in Notre Dame athletics. Being able to coach at a university where there is that interest level is exciting. There’re very few programs out there where the interest level is as high as it is here at Notre Dame.

Q: To describe yourself as a coach, or the characteristics that you posses, how would you describe yourself?

A: I think that my style of coaching is that of high tempo mentality where no matter what it is we’re doing, we’re doing it full speed. We’re doing it 100 percent. Whether it is in our conditioning, or it is in our daily everyday practice. Whether it is in the office here recruiting. We go at it 100 percent. That’s the only way that this program is going to progress on a day-to-day basis. Our goal is to get this program back to Omaha, and the only way we are going to do that is if we jump in with both feet and attack it 100 percent every day. I think that is my coaching style. There’s not going to be one minute that we take off. Not one minute that we take for granted. Not to be clich√©, but there’s not going to be a stone left unturned. Our attention to detail in everything that we do is going to be matched with an intensity level and coupled with that, if we attack it like that as coaches that is going to be brought out in our players as well.

Q: You have been at Boston College and competed in the ACC. And you have the ‘small school’ aspect in your experience as well. What are some things that you have taken from your previous stops that you have used and can use here?

A: I think that in looking at my coaching career, I couldn’t have really drawn it out any better. I was able to stay at my alma mater and coach at Wheaton. In my mind, I couldn’t have learned this whole recruiting, coaching thing from anyone better. To learn the ins and outs of how to coach, and to learn the ins and outs of how to develop players at that level and then move on and be able to coach with someone like coach Aoki. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Being able to experience how to develop guys and what works and how to get your message across, to be able to coach for the two guys that I’ve been with, I really couldn’t have learned or developed along with them any better.

Q: With Mik. What is it about him that initially attracted you to be a part of the staff, and what is it that you enjoy so much about working with him?

A: It’s his vision of our program, aside from the fact that he is just a tremendous person. I’m drawn to his vision of the way we are going to get this program to where we want it to be. I think that we value the same things, and being able to work with someone that is on the same page as you are as far as your vision of how to get there, how to get our players to that point, and how to get our program to that point. It is easy to coach for someone, and it is easy to work for someone that values the same things that you do in college baseball. The education, and the development of our players on the field as well as off the field. When your values and your visions are the same, it makes your job a heck of a lot easier.

Q: One thing that I’m anxious to know is how as a staff you guys treat this as one unit. How important is that?

A: We have been able to find four coaches that have the same drive and same passion for Irish baseball. And I think that when your goals are the same, your message to the players and the people surrounding this program are going to be the same. I think with the four personalities that we have on this staff, coupled with the vision and passion we have for this program, it all seems to work seamlessly. I think that is evident in our every day progression of this program.

Q: Favorite player growing up?

A: Mo Vaughn. I think the reason for that would be the similarities in body types, but also he was the face of the Boston Red Sox during my younger years. Being born and raised in Boston, if you didn’t like Mo Vaughn at that time, you weren’t a true fan.

Q: Favorite baseball memory?

A: As a coach I have two. When I was coaching at Wheaton we were able to get to the national championship game. And the second one would be in 2009, making it to the regional, and playing in that 25 inning game. It wasn’t the end result that we were working towards, but to be a part of that was really something special. To take a program that hadn’t been to the regional and to experience the tournament and experience the ACC tournament that year is something that we are all proud of even though the end result wasn’t what we had envisioned. The experience of being there was something special.

Q: Your most significant memory of a Red Sox vs. Yankee rivalry game?

A: Definitely the Sox in ’04 being down 3-0 to the Yanks in that ALCS series. Also, because the Sox prevailed and won that series, but as a baseball coach to be able to give your message to players that you’re never really out of it. No matter what the score is, no matter what the inning is, no matter what the series is, you can always come back and win. You can always overcome these obstacles throughout a season, throughout a game, throughout an inning. It reassures the things that I believe in, in life and on the field. Being a Sox fan and being able to experience that, there was no greater feeling that year.

Q: If you had to choose between coming back 3-0 and beating the Yankees and losing the World Series, or not even playing the Yankees and winning the World Series, which would you pick?

A: At that point I would have picket to win the World Series. Being able to do both in that instance was pretty special, especially after losing to them in 2003 with Aaron Boone hitting that home run. I think that that’s a tough one. I would’ve taken the World Series then, but having happen the way it did, I couldn’t have written it up any better myself.

— ND —