Jan. 5, 2006
The Notre Dame baseball program’s fifth annual Opening Night Dinner will be held in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse on Monday, Feb. 6 – with Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis and former Notre Dame baseball great Aaron Heilman (a native of Logansport, Ind.) set to serve as the keynote speakers while sharing their thoughts with the Joyce Center crowd at the popular event.
Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets early to ensure their spot at the special night, which provides attendees the opportunity to visit with members of Notre Dame’s nationally-ranked baseball team. The $30 admission price ($20 for students, youth and seniors) includes a Notre Dame baseball 2006 season ticket, a 2006 media guide and several other advance promotional items.
Note: as of Feb. 3, this event is sold out.
The “ballpark-style” dinner will begin at 7:00 p.m., in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse. The night’s festivities include the opportunity to win a variety of baseball and sports-related door prizes while Mainieri will introduce the Notre Dame team members, who will be available for autographs prior to the dinner, from 5:45-6:45. The ballpark atmosphere also will include big-screen video highlights and game tapes from previous Notre Dame seasons, plus a musical selection of traditional and contemporary baseball songs.
The keynote speakers have a tie to New York City’s rich baseball tradition, as Weis is a lifelong Yankees fan while Heilman’s pro career has been spent in the Mets organization (including stints on the Major League level during the past three seasons). Weis – who often speaks of his passion and appreciation for various sports – will have a connection with many of the dinner attendees, as the parent of a young baseball player. The 2005 recipient of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the year Award, Weis also has a special familiarity with two current Notre Dame baseball players, as junior receiver Jeff Samardzija (a righthanded pitcher) and freshman quarterback Evan Sharpley (a lefthhanded-hitting infielder) both are preparing for the upcoming college baseball season.
“We are thrilled to have Charlie Weis join us this year as a keynote speaker,” says Notre Dame head baseball coach Paul Mainieri. “When you think about what a remarkable job he did with the football program this year, in restoring such great pride in our football program – I could not think of a person I’d want more to have associated with our Notre Dame baseball team.
“Charlie is not only a great football coach but also a great person and I know that Irish baseball fans will be happy to hear about his feelings for our base program. It’s only natural that – with Jeff Samardzija and Evan Sharpley both being baseball and football players – there’s a great relationship between the two sports and it’s a great time to have us join us as a speaker at this special event.
Former Notre Dame ace pitcher Aaron Heilman – who had an impressive 2005 season with the New York Mets – will share his thoughts with the attendees at the upcoming Notre Dame Baseball Dinner.
“Of course, it’s also very exciting to have Aaron Heilman returning to campus,” adds Mainieri. “Aaron is at the top of the list when you look at the players who helped bring the Notre Dame baseball program to such a high level. He is the greatest pitcher in Notre Dame history and will have a great Major League career. Aaron also is such a fine young man and remains a wonderful representative of this school and the baseball program – I know the fans will enjoy having him spend time with us at this year’s dinner.”
The baseball program’s first Opening Night Dinner, featuring Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, attracted nearly 1,000 attendees prior to the 2002 season before similar numbers braved a snowstorm to attend the 2003 event that included Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry as the lead speaker. Attendance then swelled to more than 1,300 in 2004, when bestselling author and lifelong baseball fan John Grisham served as the marquee name. One year later, an overflow crowd of nearly 1,800 area baseball fans were on hand for the 2005 event, as two members of the Houston Astros – seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and closer Brad Lidge (a former standout with the Irish) – served as the keynote speakers.
It is recommended that ticket orders be placed by Jan. 20 to ensure the attendee a media guide and eligibility for the prize drawings. For dinner ticket information, please contact the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356.
Tickets also can be ordered in person at the Joyce Center second-floor ticket window (starting Jan. 6) while phone orders (574-631-7356) can be done with VISA, MasterCard or American Express. Checks should be made payable to the University of Notre Dame and mailed to the Notre Dame Ticket Office, 113 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Ticket office hours are Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. EST.
For additional information (excluding ticket orders) on the Opening Night Dinner, contact John Gumpf in the Notre Dame baseball office (574-631-6366) or Nicole Jones in the Notre Dame sports promotions office (574-631-3264).
Charlie Weis has coached two Notre Dame football players – Jeff Samardzija and Evan Sharpley – who are set to embark on the college baseball season as members of the 2006 Irish team.
CHARLIE WEIS UPDATED BIO. CAPSULE – received college football coach-of-the-year honors from the Football Writers Association of America (Eddie Robinson Award) while being a finalist for similar awards from the Associated Press, the Maxwell Football Club and American Football Monthly … wasted no time putting his signature stamp on the ND football program, transforming the Irish offense into one of the most prolific in the country as the ’05 ND team became the second-highest-scoring unit in modern school history at 36.7 points per game (just behind 37.6 from ’68) and qualified as the most improved offensive attack in the nation, jumping its total offense production (477.33 yards/gm) a national-best 131.8 yards per game better than in ’04 … that offensive productivity combined with an opportunistic, physical defense that forced nine red-zone turnovers, and vastly-improved special teams, en route to a 9-3 record and a No. 6 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series final regular-season standings … helped develop several ND players who were in contention for major national awards in 2005, with those players including quarterback Brady Quinn, receiver Jeff Samardzija, tight end Anthony Fasano and linebacker Brandon Hoyte … his ’05 offense (330.3 passing yds/gm) shattered the previous ND record of 252.7 passing yds/gm while the ’05 team became the first in Irish history to boast a 3,000-yard passer (Quinn with 3,919), a 1,000-yard rusher (Darius Walker with 1,196) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Samardzija with 1,249 and Maurice Stovall with 1,149) … with victories at 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh and No. 3 Michigan, he became the first Notre Dame head football coach ever to open with two victories over ranked opponents … the 1978 Notre Dame graduate was on the coaching staff of four Super Bowl champions (1990 N.Y. Giants, then with the New England Patriots in ’01, ’03 and ’04) during a 14-year NFL coaching career that included stints with the Giants (’90-’92), Patriots (’93-’96 and ’00-`040 and the New York Jets (’97-’99) … earlier was an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina (’85-’88) and on the prep level at Boonton High School (’79) and Morristown High School (’80-’84) in his home state of New Jersey (plus one year as a head coach, at Franklin Township HS in ’89).
Aaron Heilman is the only four-year All-American in Notre Dame baseball history.
Aaron Heilman UPDATED BIO. CAPSULE – versatile pitcher on the big-league level who emerged as one of the top members of the 2005 New York Mets staff, after making midseason shift to the bullpen … compiled a 3.17 ERA, 5-3 record and converted 5-of-6 save chances during the 2005 season with the Mets, making 53 appearances (7 starts) while totaling nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (106 Ks/37 BB) and allowing 87 hits in 108 innings pitched … his career stats with the Mets (also spanning parts of the ’03 and ’04 seasons) include a 4.6 ERA, 8-13 record and 179 Ks in 201.1 IP (72 GP/25 GS, 193 H, 91 BB) … tossed a one-hitter to beat the Florida Marlins on April 15 (7 Ks; 4-0), taking the place of the injured Kris Benson … moved to the bullpen in mid-May and responded by posting a 2.18 ERA in 46 relief appearances (66 IP), allowing just a .207 opponent batting average and only one home run in the those bullpen outings … his overall stats at She Stadium in ’05 included a 1.61 ERA and 4-1 record in 29 GP (3 GS, 61 IP) … opened his pro baseball career by playing with the Port St. Lucie Mets (single-A; ’01), the Binghamton Mets (AA; ’02) and the Norfolk Tides (AAA; ’02-’04) … recently returned to the U.S. after compiling a 2.27 ERA and 4-1 record as a starter in the Dominican Winter League … was a 54th-round draft pick out of high school (’97, by the N.Y. Yankees) and 31st overall pick in 2000 (as “sandwich” or compensation pick, by the Minnesota Twins), before opting to return to ND for senior year … later signed with the Mets as their first-round pick (and the No. 18 overall pick) in 2001 … was a finalist for all top national player-of-the-year awards in 2001 … one of just six consensus ’01 first team All-Americans, after going 15-0 in 15 starts (he was the nation’s only undefeated pitcher with 13-plus wins) with a 1.74 ERA (6th in nation), 111 Ks, just 31 walks and 70 hits allowed (.173 opp. avg., just 3 HR) in 114 IP … one of 24 all-time ND student-athletes (five from team-oriented sport) to be four-year All-American … finished his career ranked among all-time leaders in 15 of 16 career categories in the ND baseball record book (no other pitcher is listed in more than 10 categories), ranking no lower than 5th … ended career as ND’s all-time leader in wins (43-7), Ks (425), IP (393.2) and double-digit K games (7), ranking 2nd in career ERA (2.49, best since ’61), complete games (26, best since 1900) and K-to-walk ratio (3.66) and 3rd in saves (12), win pct. (.860, 43-7) and GP (83) … also ranks 4th at ND in career shutouts (6), starts (44), consecutive wins (15) and strikeout ratio (9.72 per 9 IP), plus 5th in fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.74) and with a .200 career opp. batting avg. … became 14th Div. I pitcher known to total 40-plus wins and 400-plus Ks in his career, with the previous 13 including Santa Clara’s Rick Troedsen, ASU’s Greg Swan and Eddie Bane, Texas aces Richard Wortham, Greg Swindell and Kirk Dressendorfer, Hawaii’s Derek Tatsuno, Fresno State’s John Hoover, Florida State’s Mike Loynd, Clemson’s Brian Barnes, Georgia Tech’s Doug Creek, Auburn’s John Powell and South Carolina’s Kip Bouknight … owns top-three season K totals in ND history (118 in ’99 and ’00; 111 in ’01) … named national freshman of the year in ’99, after leading nation in ERA as Irish closer (1.61), including 31-inning shutout streak … won 25 of final 26 decisions at ND … posted 24-3 career record and 2.14 ERA in games away from home … averaged 33 IP per HR allowed in ND career … struck out 18 West Virginia batters in 7-inning game that extended to 10 (April 15, 2000; 3-1 win), tying BIG EAST record and one shy of ND record … 10-time BIG EAST pitcher of the week, first pitcher ever named all-BIG EAST in four seasons and joined Charles Nagy (UConn, ’87-’88) as only repeat BIG EAST pitchers of the year … pitched for Team USA in ’99.