Baseball Head Coach
- Paul Mainieri feature from Blue & Gold (March 29, 200) – PDF format
- Paul Mainieri feature from Irish Sports Report (April 2006) – PDF format
The Paul Mainieri File (updated to include 2006 season)
- Hire Date: Aug. 25, 1994
- Career Record (after ’06 season): 864-492-4 (.637, 24 seasons)
- At Notre Dame (after ’06): 533-213-3 (.714, 12 seasons)
- ABCA Mideast Region Coach of the Year – 2001, 2002 & 2006
- BIG EAST Coach of the Year – 2001
- College Baseball Insider National Coach of the Year – 2000
- Birthdate: Aug. 29, 1957
- Hometown: Miami, Florida
- Education: 1980 – B.S. in physical education from Florida International University … 1982 – M.S. in sports administration from St. Thomas (Fla.) University
- Married to the former Karen Fejes
- Children: Nicholas, Alexandra, Samantha and Thomas
- Pronunciation: Muh-NAIR-ee
The Mainieri Era (`95-’06) – By The Numbers
3,507 – Record-setting attendance at Eck Stadium for April 21, 2006, game vs. Rutgers
2,514 – Record-setting Eck Stadium season avg. attendance in 2006
.740 – Win pct. in BIG EAST games (192-67-2) 533 – Total victories
231 – ND-record scoring streak (’99-’02)
215 – Recent scoring streak (’02-’06)
100% – Team graduation rate (among four-year players; 71-of-71)
73 – Record-setting 1997 home run total
51 – Record-setting 2004 victory total
47 – Players who have moved on to pro ball (as of June 25, 2006)
44 – Average victories per season
36 – Players selected in the MLB draft
36 – Different home states of ND players in his 12 seasons
25-1 – NCAA win over South Alabama (’02)
24 – Players with 3.0+ GPA (spring ’06)
24 – Players drafted who were not drafted out of high school
22-4 – Record-setting BIG EAST mark in ’01
21 – Players with 3.0+ GPA (fall ’05)
18 – Consecutive BIG EAST wins (’01)
18 – Players drafted in first 10 rounds
14 – All-America seasons
10 – Academic All-America seasons
10 – Consecutive 40-win seasons (16 straight for program; ’89-’04, plus ’06)
9 – NCAA Tournament appearances (’96; ’99-’05)
8 – Consecutive NCAA trips (one of 10 teams in NCAAs every year since ’99)
6 – Consecutive trips to the NCAA regional finals (’00-’05)
5 – Annual Opening Night Dinners (since ’02), featuring pre-sellout crowds of nearly 1,800 and keynote spearkers such as Tommy Lasorda, John Grisham and Roger Clemens.
5 – Consecutive BIG EAST Tournament titles (’02-’06)
5 – Consecutive preseason top-20 rankings (’01-’05)
4 – Seasons with 20-plus BIG EAST wins (no other school has won more than 18)
4 – NCAA Regionals at Eck Stadium
3.28 – Team in-season GPA during the 2006 spring semester
3 – Former ND assistants who now are D-I head coaches
3 – Players on USA National Team (possible fourth in ’06)
2 – First-round draft picks
1 – Recruit class ranking (’02 season)
1 – College World Series team (’02)
1 – National ranking in 2001 season
1 – First team to receive the ND athletic department’s award for community service excellence (in ’06)
Notre Dame’s Paul Mainieri – who in 2006 completed his 12th season as head coach for one of the nation’s elite college baseball programs – couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic as the calendar turned from 2004 to 2005.
The previous spring had seen his 10th Notre Dame team continue the program’s record-setting ascension and the ensuing fall of 2004 then included the first-ever reunion of Mainieri’s former players. A spirited turnout at that event helped to pay tribute to the players – and their coach – who had combined to rack up 450 wins during the previous 10 seasons (now 533, in 12 years).
Shortly after the calendar flipped to 2005, Mainieri was honored with a 25-year coaching certificate at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention and was voted to the position of the ABCA’s chair of the Division I Baseball Coaches (he also now is a member of the ABCA executive committee). Three weeks later, he returned to his hometown of Miami to be honored at Christopher Columbus High School with the Explorer Diamond Award, a prestigious honor recognizing alums for postgraduate accomplishments.
The energetic skipper who once was touted among the nation’s top young coaches steadily has evolved into a respected elder statesman, now ranking 22nd among active Division I coaches with 864 career victories on the collegiate level. Yet Mainieri insists that his excitement and drive for directing the Notre Dame baseball program is as strong as ever.
“The time has flown by and it’s been a great ride,” says Mainieri, whose 12 Irish teams now have combined for the nation’s fourth-best winning percentage during the decade of the 2000s (.728; 324-120-3), trailing only Rice (.752), Oral Roberts (.737) and Florida State (.734).
“When you look at the caliber of kids we’ve had in this program, you reflect back on the recruiting process. You remember winning various championships. And, certainly, you look at how they all have enjoyed such great success in their life after Notre Dame – that just makes it all worthwhile to you as a coach.”
Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAAs every season since 1999 (’99-’06), making the Irish one of 10 teams to appear in each of the past eight NCAA Tournaments (others include Miami, Texas, Rice, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Stanford, Clemson, Tulane and Oral Roberts). The Irish also joined six other teams (LSU, Miami, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford and Texas) as the only programs to reach an NCAA regional final every season from 2000-05.
The Irish have gone 0-2 at a postseason tournament just once in the Mainieri era, spanning 23 tournaments that include nine NCAA Regionals, the 2002 Super-Regional series at Florida State (when the Irish upset top-ranked FSU and ended their 25-game win streak), the 2002 College World Series (thanks to Brian Stavisky’s memorable game-ending home run that knocked off the new No. 1 team, Rice) and 12 conference tournaments (11 with the BIG EAST, plus the 1995 Midwest Collegiate Conference tournament).
The first 12 years of the Mainieri era have included 83 noteworthy players who have gone on to distinguish themselves after their Irish careers. Among that group are: three pitchers who have reached the Major Leagues; 16 other current professional players (plus 29 former pro players); nine lawyers/current law-school students; five medical/dental-school students; seven others who have received a master’s degree (including two MBAs); three engineers; five involved in medical sales; 11 college/high school coaches; three teachers; three commodity brokers; a sports agent; a contractor; and a town mayor – plus others who are involved in areas such as youth services, accounting, sales, atheltic administration, technology, advertising, graphic design, banking and consulting.
The most recent season in the Mainieri era saw the 2006 team reach 45 wins (45-17-1) for the sixth time in the past seven seasons (all but ’05). The 2006 squad ranked among the national top-30 in all three major categories (batting avg., ERA and fielding pct.) for most of the season, with just a handful of teams being ranked among the top-30 in all three categories during the second half of the season.
Despite a slight dropoff in the team’s batting average at the end of the 2006 season, Notre Dame still remained among the national top-40 in team batting (40th; .313), staff ERA (21st; 3.52) and team fielding pct. (22nd; school-record .972). With nearly 300 teams currently playing at the Division-I level, Notre Dame will finish 2006 as one of just four teams in the top-40 for all three of the above stat categories. The others (as of June 15) include: top-ranked Rice (.321/23rd; 3.16/4th; .972/21st), Oral Roberts (.327/9th; 3.63/27th; .973/19th) and a Virginia team led by former Notre Dame associate head coach Brian O’Connor (.322/20th; 3.04/3rd; .970/39th).
Notre Dame’s 45 wins in 2006 tied for the 10th-most in the nation while the team’s .722 winning pct. ranked 12th. The Irish also won the BIG EAST Tournament for the fifth straight season (no other BIG EAST team has won more than two in a row), representing the nation’s second-longest streak of consecutive conference tournament titles (Oral Roberts has won nine straight Mid-Continent Conference titles).
In addition to establishing the team record for season fielding pct. (.972; with just 69 errors in 63 games), Mainieri’s 2006 team set or tied four other Notre Dame records: strikeouts thrown (504), saves (18), staff strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.95; 504/171) and fewest wild pitches (0.38/gm). The 2006 team also totaled the second-most sacrifice bunts in Notre Dame history (65, one shy of the team record) while finishing with the program’s third-best totals in three other categories: 10.81 hits per game, 100 times hit-by-pitch and low staff walk average (2.69 BB per 9 IP).
On top of the five team records mentioned above, the 2006 squad also allowed just 18 home runs all season for the best HR average by an ND staff in the Mainieri era (0.29 HR allowed/gm). The 2006 team also compiled the second-best marks in the Mainieri era for hits per game, batters walk-to-K ratio (0.88; 247/28) and sac. bunts. The ’06 team ranks third-best in the Mainieri era for six other stat categories: regular-season wins (45), on-base pct. (.403), staff ERA (3.52; 27th in the nation for ’06), low opponent batting avg. (.249), batters at-bats per K (7.74) and batters HBPs. The 2006 pitching staff’s average of 7.93 strikeouts per 9.0 innings is fourth-best in the Mainieri era (second-best since ’99).
Mainieri’s 2006 team compiled the program’s best plate-discipline ratio (BB+HBP-Ks) since 1990, finishing at +66 with 247 walks, 100 times hit-by-pitch and just 281 strikeouts (4.5 per game).
The 2006 season saw Notre Dame set the Eck Stadium record for average attendance (2,514), totaling 60,334 fans during the season’s 24 home dates. The top-seven attendance numbers in the 13-year history of Eck Stadium all came during the 2006 season, led by 3,507 for the series opener versus Rutgers on April 21. Based on 2005 numbers and a 2006 sampling of 69 top teams (as of May 7), Notre Dame likely will finish among the national top-25 leaders for 2006 average attendance. The Irish also were a major drawing card wherever they went on the road in 2006, playing in front of more than 100,000 fans (103.871) over the course of 59 total playing dates.
Notre Dame was competitive into the late innings of every game but four during the 2006 season, with 12 of the 17 losses coming by 1-3 runs. The Irish held the lead in nine of the 2006 losses, including late-game leads in six of those defeats.
The team compiled a team-record 23-game midseason win streak that was longest in Division I during the 2006 season (no other team won more than 18 straight) and is believed to be one of the longest Division-I streaks of the decade.
Notre Dame’s 2006 season ended with losses to a pair of teams that also were ranked among the national top-25 polls, as the Irish ultimately faced the toughest opening two-game draw of any top-25 team. Despite being ranked in the top-20 of all the national polls (including 15th per Baseball America), Notre Dame was relegated to being a regional No. 3 seed (essentially outside the top-32) and made the busride south to the Lexington Regional. The Irish held a late 4-1 lead on the 24th-ranked College of Charleston but a three-run blast tied the game and the second-seeded Cougars ultimately won a 16-inning thriller (5-4), matching the second-longest game in NCAA Tournament history.
The Irish had used their Freshman All-America closer Kyle Weiland (a candidate for the 2006 U.S. National Team) for the final seven innings of the NCAA opener and thus were forced to make All-America starter Jeff Manship the team’s closer for the rest of the regional. An upset in the other day-one game saw Ball State knock off the host team, forcing Notre Dame into an elimination game versus a 13th-ranked Wildcats team that lost just three home games in the 2006 regular season. An unusually high walk total from the Irish staff gave the opponent plenty of chances and Kentucky ended Notre Dame’s season in a 10-4 game – with Charleston going on to win the regional from an advantageous spot that the Irish nearly claimed in the tense opening game (ND left 17 runners on base in the 16-inning loss, with 11 stranded in scoring position).
Postseason honors in 2006 saw first baseman Craig Cooper earn near-consensus All-America distinction while righthander Jeff Manship also collected All-America honors. Those players combined with three others – righthander Jeff Samardzija, lefthander Tom Thornton and shortstop Greg Lopez – to comprise the second-most Major League draft picks (5) in the program’s history. It also marked the first time that three Irish pitchers had been picked in the same draft and the fourth time that three Notre Dame seniors (Cooper, Thornton and Lopez) had been selected, with two previous Mainieri teams (’01 and ’02) likewise producing three senior draft picks.
Mainieri earned his third ABCA Mid-East Coach of the Year honor following the conclusion of the 2006 season.
The wide-reaching excellence of the Notre Dame baseball program was reinforced at the athletic department’s 2006 awards recognition showcase, as the baseball team was the first recipient of the Notre Dame athletics “Trophy Award” – honoring one varsity team for community service dedication during the academic year. The 32 members of the Notre Dame baseball team combined to total nearly 200 hours of community service in 2005-06. One of the team’s annual events has been the Buddy Walk to benefit children with Downs Syndrome and their parents, in a day-long series of activities that concludes with a walk that always brings plenty of smiles to the children’s faces. The team also “adopted” a local South Bend-area family, through a Salvation Army program during the Christmas holidays. The senior class coordinated the effort while the entire team participated in providing food, supplies and presents to help cheer up the holidays for a local family.
The team’s other service activites during the 2005-06 season included sophomore David Gruener and senior Eddie Smith donating their time during fall break while assisting in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Senior Tom Thornton undertook a personal project during the 2005 fall semester in which he made weekly visits to South Bend’s Veritos Academy, where he served as a mentor for the young students. Members of the team also continued to participate in the South Bend Reads program (at Hums and Messel elementary schools) and the D.A.R.E. drugs and alcohol education program – while the athletic department’s annual Christmas party again featured plenty of participants from the baseball program, with this popular event including an assortment of activities and games that help bring joy to young cancer patients from Memorial Hospital’s hematology/oncology ward. The baseball team likewise assisted in the Student-Athlete Advisory Council’s Shoebox Drive that helps provide supplies to a local homeless shelter.
Thornton was recognized with two prestigious awards from the athletic department, joining former basketball standout Ruth Riley (’01) as the only Notre Dame student-athletes to receive both the Byron Kanalaey Award (recognizing athletes who are exemplary as both students and leaders) and the Chris Zorich Award (honoring community service excellence).
The honors continuned for members of the 2006 team in the summer season, as freshman closer Kyle Weiland was among 35 of the nation’s top young players who were invited to the annual USA Baseball National Team trials. If Weiland is named to the final 22-player roster – which will play a full summer slate of top competition, including the World University Games in Cuba – he would become the fourth Notre Dame player in the past nine years to play with the USA National Team. Others have included infielder Brant Ust in 1998, pitcher Aaron Heilman in ’99 and fellow righthander Grant Johnson following the 2002 College World Series seaosn.
Mainieri’s first 12 seasons with the Irish are divided by a clear turning point for the program. Every so often in the world of college baseball, a team takes on the personality of its coach – and such a relationship was readily evident at the 2000 NCAA Baseball Regional in Starkville, Miss. It was then that Mainieri’s squad fashioned a five-game performance that earned it a permanent place in the storied history of Mississippi State’s Dudy Noble Field. It was a performance that seemingly launched Notre Dame on to its historic seasons that were to follow.
That link between coach and team was further evident in 2002, when Mainieri – one of the nation’s most well-respected coaches – steered an injury-depleted squad that regrouped from its 9-10 start and advanced all the way to the College World Series, the program’s first trip to the CWS in 45 years.
The 48-year-old Mainieri – who in 2002 became the nation’s only coach to repeat as one of eight ABCA regional coaches of the year – has continued the program’s standard of excellence in his first 12 seasons, with that span including: nineconference titles, nine trips to the NCAAs, 533 victories, 49 players who have been drafted or signed free-agent contracts, and 18 selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Draft – with his Irish players also combining for 14 All-America and 10 Academic All-America seasons. Mainieri’s first 10 squads extended the program’s string of consecutive seasons with 40-plus wins to 16 – the nation’s third-longest streak at the time (the 2006 team then secured the program’s 17th season in the past 18 with 40-plus wins).
In addition to on-field success, Mainieri’s Notre Dame teams have combined for a 100-percent graduation rate (71 of 71), among players who completed their eligibility (12 who signed professionally after their junior year have returned to complete or near completion of their degree requirements). Notre Dame was the only Division I baseball program to produce Academic All-Americans each year from 2000-04, with two honored every season from 2000-03. The current squad combined for a 3.17 team GPA in the 2005 fall semester – led by 21 players with a 3.0-plus and 10 at 3.4-plus – before an impressive 3.28 team in-season GPA during the 2006 spring semester (with 24 of the 32 players at 3.0-plus, 16 at 3.4 or higher and six at 3.6-plus).
Two of Mainieri’s former Notre Dame assistant coaches – Brian O’Connor (at Virginia) and Cory Mee (Toledo) – were named Division I head coaches within weeks of one another, during the summer of 2003. Another former Irish assistant followed them into the head coaching ranks, as David Grewe was named the skipper at Michigan State following the 2005 season.
In 12 seasons of BIG EAST play, the Irish have won more league games (192-67-2, .740) than any other team in the conference, which has sent six different teams to the NCAAs since 1999. Mainieri’s owns the top career BIG EAST winning pct. (.740) in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball and four of his teams have posted 20-plus wins in BIG EAST play (no other school has won more than 18 BIG EAST games in a season).
Mainieri, who earlier spent six years as head coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, completed his 24th year of coaching on the collegiate level in 2006, with an overall record of 864-492-4 (.637). He ranks second on the Notre Dame baseball career coaching wins list (533-213-3/.714), behind Hall of Famer Jake Kline (558-449-5; ’34-’75).
Following the historic 2001 season, Mainieri signed a new multi-year contract to continue as head coach of the Notre Dame baseball program. His 2001 and ’02 teams combined for a 99-31-1 record, the nation’s third-most wins in that span. The 2003 team then became the first to repeat as BIG EAST Tournament champions since 1986, in a 45-18 season that produced an unprecedented three All-Americans: second baseman Steve Sollmann, ace pitcher Chris Niesel and closer J.P. Gagne.
The 2004 team then turned in the record-setting 51-12 season that represented the most wins in Notre Dame history. Five players from the 2004 squad were snapped up in the MLB draft, including four in the first 10 rounds (no previous ND team had produced more than two top-10-round picks).
Mainieri’s 49 Notre Dame players who have been drafted or signed as free agents include 36 selected in the Major League draft (18 in first 10 rounds). The hard work put into the recruiting process by Mainieri and his staff has yielded impressive results, with highly-regarded prospects and diamonds in the rough comprising the recent incoming classes – highlighted by the nation’s top-ranked freshman class in 2002 and the No. 7-rated class for the 2006 freshmen.
Notre Dame was one of just four schools from 1998-2001 that produced two pitchers – Brad Lidge (’98, Houston Astros) and Aaron Heilman (`02, New York Mets) – who were drafted in the first round, with both players advancing to the Major Leagues. Mainieri and his staff consistently have molded players into top prospects, as Lidge was just a 42nd-round pick out of high school while Heilman was a 54th-round pick. Three of Mainieri’s former Notre Dame players – Lidge, Heilman and Christian Parker (New York Yankees) – have pitched in the Major Leagues, with Lidge emerging as one of the game’s elite closers.
Seven other recent Irish players developed into high draft picks despite going undrafted as preps: pitchers Tim Kalita (7th round in ’99), Danny Tamayo (10th round, ’01), Gagne (13th round, ’03) and Samardzija (5th round, ’06), shortstop Alec Porzel (13th round, ’01), centerfielder Steve Stanley (2nd round, ’02) and first baseman Cooper (7th round, ’06) – with Tamayo, Porzel, Stanley, Gagne and Cooper each ranking among the highest-drafted seniors in the program’s history.
All told in the Mainieri era, nine of 13 Irish players who were drafted out of high school have gone on to be drafted in a higher round at Notre Dame while 24 who were undrafted as preps went on to be drafted as members of the Irish program.
Mainieri – who was presented with a surprise honorary monogram from the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, at the end of the 2002 fall CWS ring and flagraising ceremony – oversaw the introduction of season tickets for 2002 games at Eck Stadium, attracting nearly 1,000 season-ticket holders. A showdown that season with Arizona State drew in 2,900 fans, setting an Eck Stadium record that was bested seven times in the 2006 season.
The 2002 season also marked the program’s first annual Opening Night Dinner, with the five highly-popular events featuring an impressive lineup of keynote speakers: Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry, award-winning author and lifelong baseball fan John Grisham, legendary baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis (former ND players Stanley, Lidge and Heilman also have served as bonus guest speakers). The 2005 and ’06 preseason dinners each were advanced sellouts, with nearly 1,800 fans packing the Joyce Center Fieldhouse for a memorable night with the Notre Dame baseball program.
Notre Dame’s impressive 99-win stretch through the 2001 and ’02 season came on the heels of the galvanizing end to the 2000 campaign, sparked by Mainieri’s spirited leadership.
Irish fans should have known they were about to witness a landmark effort at that 2000 NCAA Regional in Starkville, Miss., thanks to an ominous – yet painful – sign during batting practice prior to the opener versus Tulane. Mainieri was throwing batting preactice when he was stung by a line drive on the right side of his chest. Mainieri dropped to the ground and quickly was attended to by athletic trainer Mike Bean. Moments later, he hopped back up and resumed throwing.
Mainieri ended up not missing a single moment due to the injury, later diagnosed as broken ribs. He often could be seen rubbing the sore area but never abandoned his leadership role while the Irish fell in line with the gritty leadership of their coach and won over large portions of the massive crowds.
Notre Dame’s second night of action at the 2000 Starkville Regional included weathering a tornado-induced delay and a 6-1 deficit to beat Tulane in an elimination game that stretched into early morning. The Irish returned hours later to shock the host Bulldogs, 7-0, setting up a classic title game that was won by the home team on a ninth-inning home run (10-9). Hundreds of Mississippi State fans rushed to greet the Notre Dame players, praising them for a memorable effort.
Mainieri and his staff went on to develop a veteran core that paid big dividends in 2001, after which an unprecedented six Irish players were selected in the 2001 Major League draft. The season included the program’s first No. 1 national ranking, a team-record victory total (49-13-1; bested by 50 wins in ’02 and 51 in ’04), a 22-4 conference record (most wins in BIG EAST history) and NCAA regional action at Eck Stadium for the second time in three years.
A former Chicago White Sox farmhand, Mainieri was the first civilian baseball coach at Air Force and averaged 26 wins in six seasons (’89-’94) for a program that averaged just 15 wins in the six previous years. He is the only Air Force baseball coach to post six straight 20-win seasons and his 1994 squad led the nation in hitting (.360), slugging (.623) and triples (0.76 per game).
The son of legendary Miami-Dade North Community College coach Demie Mainieri guided the 1993 Air Force team to its first winning season in nearly a decade (28-22), with a school-record 21 wins at home. He coached three All-Americans, two Freshman All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans with the Falcons.
Mainieri coached six seasons at St. Thomas (Fla.) University where – in 1983 at the age of 24 – he took over a program that had yet to post a winning season. Mainieri led St. Thomas to four seasons that ended with the team ranked in the final NCAA Division II poll. The 1984 Sunshine State Conference coach of the year saw his St. Thomas teams average 30 wins per season (after an average of just 18 wins in the six previous years).
Fifteen of Mainieri’s St. Thomas players entered pro baseball, with Joe Klink, Dane Johnson (Chicago White Sox, ’94) and Dan Rohrmeier (Seattle Mariners, ’97) each going on to appear on Major League rosters. Klink played with the 1987 Minnesota Twins and ’89 Oakland A’s World Series championship teams while also pitching with the Florida Marlins in ’94.
Mainieri’s career began at his alma mater Columbus High School in Miami, where he served as assistant baseball and football coach for three years before taking over at St. Thomas in the fall of 1982. He also spent the final three years at St. Thomas as director of athletics.
A four-year letterwinner in college, Mainieri played one season at LSU, one for his father at Miami-Dade and two at the University of New Orleans. The second baseman helped the Privateers win two Sun Belt Conference titles and advance to the 1979 NCAA tournament during his senior season.
After completing his undergraduate degree requirements at Florida International (’80), Mainieri played two minor-league seasons before earning a master’s in sports administration from St. Thomas in 1982.
Born Aug. 29, 1957, in Morgantown, W.Va., Mainieri and wife Karen have four children: Nicholas (22) – a senior student assistant coach on the 2006 Irish squad – Alexandra (21, who will be a senior at Ball State in 2006-07), Samantha (19, who has been accepted at Notre Dame for her sophomore year in ’06-’07) and Notre Dame’s spirited batboy Thomas (11, born two days before Mainieri accepted the position at Notre Dame).
Notre Dame Baseball Mainieri Era Highlights (’95-’05)
1995 (40-21) – Team won Midwestern Collegiate Conference Western Division title, led by the nation’s triples leader Scott Sollmann (.406 batting) and All-America outfielder Ryan Topham.
1996 (44-18) – Irish advanced to BIG EAST title game and earned NCAA berth while eight were drafted or signed as free-agents, led by pitcher Christian Parker (4th round, Montreal Expos) and Sollmann (7th-rd, Detroit Tigers).
1997 (41-19) – Potent BIG EAST runner-up squad tied Irish record for team batting average (.334) while setting ND records for home runs (66) and strikeouts thrown (399).
1998 (41-17) – The Irish swept BIG EAST player (infielder Brant Ust) and pitcher (Brad Lidge) of the year while Ust and freshman closer Aaron Heilman (NCAA-best 1.61 ERA) were All-Americans. Ust and four-time all-BIG EAST DH Jeff Wagner (`99) powered another HR record (73).
1999 (43-18) – Team cracked national rankings and again set strikeout record (478). Notre Dame rolled to BIG EAST regular-season title (20-5) and also registered beat eventual national champ Miami (1-0), one strike shy of handing Hurricanes first no-hit loss since ’58. The Irish played host to festive NCAA Regional action and Paul Mainieri was named national coach of the year by College Baseball Insider. Ust (6th round) and LHP Tim Kalita (7th) went on to be selected by the Tigers in the MLB draft.
2000 (46-18) – The Irish capped the season with the landmark experience at the NCAA Starkville Regional, nearly advancing past the host Bulldogs. Heilman picked up BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-year honors while the Irish turned in one of the top all-around seasons (hitting, pitching and defense) in the program’s history.
2001 (49-13-1) – Irish rose to No. 1 national ranking in midseason, won BIG EAST regular-season title (22-4) and set team record for wins in a season. Heilman (the draft’s 18th pick, N.Y. Mets) had a rare fourth All-America season while combining with Danny Tamayo as potent 1-2 punch (3.66 staff ERA) that helped establish several team records (2.9 staff K-to-walk ratio).
2002 (50-18) – College World Series season was fitting tribute to senior class that won nearly 188 games in four-year career. The Irish repeated as regular-season champ and won their first BIG EAST Tournament title en route to another record win total. The NCAAs featured by a record-setting 25-1 win over regional top seed South Alabama. Notre Dame then ended Florida State’s 25-game win streak en route to claiming that Super Regional series. Senior centerfielder Steve Stanley repeated as an All-American and (like Heilman in `01) was a player-of-the-year finalist. Pitcher Grant Johnson went on to earn a spot on the 2002 USA National Team, following in the footsteps of Ust (`98) and Heilman (`99).
2003 (45-18) – The Irish coped with the loss of the talented `02 senior class and injuries to several top players, turning in another top season (first BIG EAST Tournament repeat champ since `86) while witnessing the emergence of new leaders. Second baseman Steve Sollmann turned in his third of four all-BIG EAST seasons and completed the rare double of earning All-America and Academic All-America honors.
2004 (51-12) – Team again rose above key injuries en route to compiling record win total for third time in four years. Four players – Johnson (2nd round, Cubs), 3B Matt Macri (5th, Rockies), RHP Chris Niesel (9th, Indians) and Sollmann (10th, Brewers) – were selected early in the MLB draft while Notre Dame became the first team ever to win three straight BIG EAST titles.
2005 (38-24-1) – Late surge included win over USC, fourth straight BIG EAST Tournament title and another trip to the NCAA Regional final, at Florida.
Notre Dame head baseball coach Paul Mainieri grew up around the game of baseball on a daily basis and, as the son of a Hall of Fame coach, had the good fortune to be exposed to several outstanding coaches.
Mainieri cites three primary influences in his development as a coach, headed by his father Demie Mainieri, who coached Miami-Dade North Community College to 1,018 wins and a national title in his 30-year career.
“My father laid the foundation for identifying the correct reasons to enter into the coaching profession,” says Mainieri.
“Despite his success that he may have encountered, my father emphasized to me that a coach was a teacher first and foremost. Watching how he made such a positive impact on young people’s lives was the greatest factor for me wanting to follow in his footsteps.”
Mainieri spent his final two seasons as an infielder at the University of New Orleans, where he had the good fortune of playing for current UNO athletic director Ron Maestri. “Coach Maestri showed me how a high intensity level and work ethic can translate into success,” recalls Mainieri, whose 2002 squad opened at the Ron Maestri/UNO Classic.
“He used to do the little things-like drag the field and go into the community to raise support – and his charisma resulted in the construction of a beautiful ballpark for our team,” says Mainieri.
“He pushed his team hard but would do anything for his players, and his players were very loyal to him. Coach Maestri also relayed to me the importance of recruiting the best athletes – meaning shortstops – and we had six or seven high school shortstops in our everyday lineup.”
During his early days in coaching, Mainieri had the chance to meet former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and has maintained a friendship with one of the game’s greatest ambassadors.
“Tommy has advised me in so many areas, it’s hard to specify any areas of emphasis,” says Mainieri of Lasorda, who spoke at the Notre Dame pep rally prior to the 2001 Tennessee football game and served as the keynote speaker at the Notre Dame baseball team’s “Opening Night Dinner” on Feb. 18, 2002. “I think from him I really realized how important it is to bring joy to the ballpark every day. The players definitely follow your lead as the coach and the enthusiasm you show for your job will rub off on them.”
Mainieri readily credits his success to the guidance of those three Hall of Famers. “To this day, I still regularly call each of these men to ask for their advice,” he says. “I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned from the best!”
What They’ve Said About Paul Mainieri
“Notre Dame has become one of the top five programs in the country and it’s almost hard to believe what the Irish have accomplished over the past 10 years. The players who go there get better, on the field and off the field, and there’s not a finer molder of young men than Paul Mainieri. He’s one of the ultimate winners in college baseball.
“Notre Dame is professional baseball’s dream program. When you come to see Notre Dame play as a scout or front-office person, you’re going to get the right kind of player, the kind who run the balls out and play hard all the time. And you don’t find that very often. Notre Dame is now loaded with prospects and that’s a credit to Paul and his staff.”
– Jim Hendry (Chicago Cubs General Manager)
“Coach Mainieri knows the game but he knows his players even better. He knows how to manage players extremely well – knowing who he has to push harder and who he needs to give space, always getting the best out of his players. His door was always open and he was willing to listen to whatever was on your mind – all while treating everyone with the respect they deserved and caring about the person and his life, not just the player.
– Aaron Heilman (member of New York Mets; Notre Dame pitcher, `98-’01)
“Coach Mainieri is the most influential coach I’ve played for and the compassion he has for players helps instill a desire to play the game. He truly motivates you to want to out there and play your best every day. That deep devotion to his players has carried on after graduation and we all have become part of the family that is Notre Dame baseball.
“I also can say that everything he told me when he was recruiting me as a high school player was 100-percent true. He was honest and genuine in every way.
“As much as he is kind and compassionate off the field, on the field he’s an intense competitor who hates to lose. And he has the deep respect of his players because they know how much he cares. They want to do all they can to help fulfill his dream of winning a national championship.
“Coach Mainieri made it possible for me to be the best possible player I could be. If I went anywhere else, I would not have fulfilled my destiny. He was the springboard that allowed me to fulfill my dream of playing professional baseball.”
– Steve Stanley (former member of Oakland A’s organization; Notre Dame centerfielder, `99-’02)
“I’ve always felt that happiness comes from within and from knowing that you’re doing something worthwhile. And Paul Mainieri truly loves being the coach at Notre Dame. It’s a perfect fit between a classy school and a classy coach. I’ve been around a lot of teams in my day, on a lot of levels, and none carries itself like those young men from Notre Dame. And that’s a tribute to both their parents and their head coach.”
– Tommy Lasorda (Baseball Hall-of Fame Manager)
“As a baseball guy, coach Mainieri is one of the top coaches in the country. He and his staff do a great job in developing players and you know what you’re going to get when you draft a Notre Dame player: someone who works hard and who challenges himself. And that’s all a reflection of Paul. He was the first guy I called when I started scouting this area.”
– Rich Sparks (Midwest Scouting Supervisor, Oakland Athletics)
Mainieri’s Coaching Record
Year School Record Pct. Notes/Honors 1983 St. Thomas (Fla.) 19-25-1 .445 1984 St. Thomas (Fla.) 37-14 .725 Ranked top 10 Div. II, set school record for wins, Sunshine State Conference Coach of Year 1985 St. Thomas (Fla.) 31-21 .596 Ranked top 10 Division II 1986 St. Thomas (Fla.) 23-24 .489 1987 St. Thomas (Fla.) 35-21 .625 Ranked top 10 Div. II, led nation with .340 team batting avg. 1988 St. Thomas (Fla.) 33-16-1 .670 Ranked top 10 Division II 6-yr St. Thomas Totals 179-121-1 .596 Winningest coach in St. Thomas history 1989 Air Force 27-27 .500 Set school records for Western Atletic Conference wins (13) 1990 Air Force 26-34 .433 1991 Air Force 22-27 .449 1992 Air Force 23-24 .489 1993 Air Force 28-22 .560 Team led nation in triples, second-most wins in team history, best AFA record since ’82 1994 Air Force 26-24 .520 Team led nation with .360 batting average 6-yr Air Force Totals 152-158 .490 Second-winningest coach in Air Force history 1995 Notre Dame 40-21 .656 Midwestern Collegiate Conf. Western Div. champs, most wins by first-year ND coach 1996 Notre Dame 44-18 .710 Participated in NCAA South I Regional (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) 1997 Notre Dame 41-19 .683 BIG EAST National Division champions, top winning percentage (15-6) in BIG EAST 1998 Notre Dame 41-17 .707 Notre Dame’s 10th straight 40-win season; Irish finish 12th in nation for team ERA 1999 Notre Dame 43-18 .705 National Coach of the Year (CBI); BIG EAST regular-season champ (20-5); NCAA host 2000 Notre Dame 46-18 .719 Reached title game of NCAA Starkville Regional; fourth-most wins in school history 2001 Notre Dame 49-13-1 .786 BIG EAST/Midwest Region Coach of the Year; #1 ranking; BIG EAST champs; NCAA host 2002 Notre Dame 50-18 .735 Mideast Region Coach of the Year; BIG EAST champs; College World Series participant 2003 Notre Dame 45-18 .714 First BIG EAST Tournament repeat champion since 1986; NCAA Regional participant 2004 Notre Dame 51-12 .809 First team to win three straight BIG EAST Tournament titles; NCAA Regional participant; school-record win total for 3rd time in 4 years 2005 Notre Dame 38-24-1 .611 Extended unprecedented run of Big East Tournament titles to 4; NCAA Regional finalist 2006 Notre Dame 45-17-1 .722 Extended unprecedented run of Big East Tournament titles to 5; NCAA Regional participant; BE reg.-season champs; set ND record with 23-gm win streak (nation’s longest in ’06) 12-yr ND Totals 533-213-3 .714 Has seen 49 of his ND players be drafted or sign professional free-agent contracts
- 24-year Head Coaching Record: 864-492-4 (.637)
- 17-year Division I Coaching Record: 685-371-3 (.648)