Feb. 1, 2004

The Notre Dame baseball team staged its first official practice of the 2004 preseason on Sunday, Feb. 1, following two weeks of individual workouts in small groups.

Here are comments from the Notre Dame coaching staff, following the first full day of 2004 practice (check back to und.com for weekly practice reports leading up the Feb. 20 opener vs. San Diego State):

Head Coach Paul Mainieri

“The past few weeks involved skill development in groups of four and there has been some intense competition as guys try to prove their value as a consistent performer. It was great to finally get the whole team together. We had a team meeting to reinforce some policies and goals and then had some great workouts, including a full-team scrimmage.

“The new Prestige Turf at the Loftus Center is state-of-the-art and will be a tremendous benefit to our team. It’s more realistic to real grass and the players can dive for balls just like they would on a grass field. I think I speak for all coaches of our sports teams that use Loftus in saying that this new turf is a wonderful new addition.

“We went through our usual pregame infield and outfield drills, with our volunteer assistant John Gumpf getting the chance to work with the outfielders. John was a big-time prospect coming out of high school and played several years of pro ball, so he should have a very positive impact on our great group of outfielder.

“As far as the infield goes, we were very encouraged by the first day and think this group has the potential to be another solid defensive unit.

“We also have put in plenty of work at the Eck Stadium indoor facility, with the hitters getting plenty of at-bats and the pitchers getting the chance to throw off those great dirt mounds.

Assistant Coach David Grewe

“Our goal during the past few weeks was to get these hitters seeing as many pitches as possible and getting their timing down. And now we are going to work in trying to get ready for the start of the season. It’s always a challenge for hitters to be on the top of their game those first couple weeks and it’s a goal in these preseason workouts to get them prepared for game experiences.

“From a catching standpoint, we continue to be very excited about the tandem of our senior Javi Sanchez and the new guy Sean Gaston. They both are driven to get better every day and they will be a great support system for each other throughout this season.”

Assistant Coach Terry Rooney

“Our pitchers all came back in good shape and began throwing two bullpens per week leading up to the full start of practice. Now we are adding live scrimmages and the main focus remains building pitch counts and gaining feel for the off-speed pitches.

“In the next few weeks, we will need to define some roles and these pitchers will have a chance to show what they can do. We also will be getting the pitchers in proper shape to have the endurance needed for that first weekend of games.

“During our first scrimmage, three pitchers – sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton an freshman righthanders Jess Stewart and Chris Vasami – each threw and they did a great job. Tom and Jess, in particular, had impressive outings and were throwing a lot of strikes.”