Craig Cooper's first five national postseason honors placed him among the nation's top four most-decorated position players (photo by Matt Cashore).

Craig Cooper Picks Up Two More All-America Honors, As One Of Nation's Top Position Players

June 20, 2006

Notre Dame first baseman Craig Cooper – who graduated last month and currently is embarking on his professional career as a member of the San Diego Padres organization – recently collected two more All-America honors for the 2006 season, earning second-team honors om the prestigious Baseball America team while being named a third team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America.

Cooper earlier was named a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball magazine and had been honored by the College Baseball Foundation as one of its 30 All-Americans. Cooper joined Kentucky first baseman Ryan Strieby and two top outfielders (Drew Stubbs of Texas and Kellen Kulbacki of James Madison) as the only position players to receive each of the following honors: among the final-30 candidates for the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award; a CBF All-American; a Collegiate Baseball first or second team All-American; a Baseball America first or second team All-American; and an NCBWA All-American.

Cooper appeared headed for elite status as a unanimous All-American but a flaw in the American Baseball Coaches Association’s selection process prevented him from even being considered during the final ABCA Al-America phase. Ball State’s Ryan Miller was selected the first-team first baseman on the ABCA’s All-Mideast Region team while Cooper was relegated to the second team. Only all-region first teamers are eligible for the ABCA All-America team, a policy that eliminated several top players (including Washington RHP Tim Linecum) from being considered for the top national honors. Cooper outhit Miller by 90 points (.425-.335) but the players filled different overall roles: Cooper as a leadoff man with a near-ND-record .522 on-base pct. and nation-leading 79 runs; Miller as a cleanup batter, with 76 RBI and 21 home runs. Cooper’s slugging pct. was just 24 points below Miller’s (.678 to .654), with both hitting 19 doubles while Cooper had 15 more total hits (97 to 82) and half as many strikeouts (14, to Miller’s 29). Miller ended up being an ABCA second team All-American, meaning that it was possible he and Cooper both could have been on one of the ABCA All-America teams (1st, 2nd or 3rd team, which included a total of four first basemen this season).

The NCBWA also passed over Cooper in selecting Ohio State junior third baseman Ronnie Bourquin as its District V player of the year. Bourquin’s equally impressive season included batting .416 with 91 hits, 66 RBI, .612 slugging, a .492 on-base pct. and a 14-game hit streak (seven shy of Cooper’s 2006 hit streak that tied an ND record).

One major All-America team – from USA Today Baseball Weekly – has yet to be released for the 2006 season.

The Baseball America All-America team traditionally has been a highly-selective listing, as only six previous Notre Dame players had been named BA All-Americans since those awards made their debut in 1981. Righthander Aaron Heilman (’01) and three elite centerfielders – Dan Peltier (’89), Eric Danapilis (’93) and Steve Stanley (’02) – are the only ND players ever named by BA to its first team All-America squad. Cooper joins former teammate and third baseman Matt Macri (’04) as Irish players named to the BA second team while Stanley was a third-teamer in 2001, as was third baseman Brant Ust in 1998.

Cooper is one of five Notre Dame players to be named an All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball (since ’91) and the NCBWA (since ’81), joining Danapilis, Heilman, Stanley and Macri in that distinction.

The impressive season from the 2006 BIG EAST Conference player of the year included the following: leading the nation in runs scored (79) and ranking sixth nationally in batting average (.425); posting nearly a 3-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio (38/14) and 17 more extra-base hits (31) than Ks; becoming the all-time leader in BIG EAST Conference history for career bating avg. in BIG EAST games (.444); claiming an unprecedented third BIG EAST batting title; leading the 2006 ND offense in 20 categories, including a .426 batting avg. with runners on base and a .575 leadoff on-base pct.; reaching base in 55 of his 57 games played (with hits in 50 and runs in 48); compiling the third-best season on-base pct. in ND history (.522); and tying an ND record with his 21-game hit streak.

Additional info. on Cooper follows below (including post-draft quotes, updated bio. capsule and links to stats and articles; see post-draft articles for additional releases, including photos).

POST-DRAFT QUOTES FROM Craig Cooper – “It feels great. It fulfills a lifelong dream and I get to play professional baseball. It’s a dream come true. I had been hearing that I’d be picked somewhere between the seventh and 10th rounds, but you never know. I went in not expecting that much but hoping for the best. It worked out really well for me.

“I’ll be heading to Eugene, Oregon. Sooner or later I could end up back in Indiana. It would be great to be back in the area and see some friends.

“The biggest strides for me have been with my confidence and discipline at the plate. Coming in as a freshman, you don’t even know what to except from college. Every year my confidence kind of grew and grew. Freshman year, I kind of had to find out if I could compete. Once I realized I could be competitive, I wanted to be better and every year I kind of grew. Playing in the Cape Cod League really helped, facing great pitching every day and when you came back to school it made it a lot easier. My plate discipline my freshman year, I had a problem with curveballs and swinging at balls in the dirt. Over time and with repetition, I’ve been able to make some adjustments.

“[Notre Dame assistant] coach [Cliff] Godwin had a huge impact on me. He’s always out there doing early work with the guys and he spent a lot of time individually with me, working on my swing and doing drills with me. I owe a lot of my success this year to coach Godwin.

“Playing at Notre Dame definitely helped with my success. Being around the coaches and the people I met at Notre Dame, I can’t ask for a better experience. I definitely maximized my potential.

“I think [the Tigers organization] want me to play a majority of first base but also fill in some in the outfield. I’m willing to play wherever they need me, so it’s a good situation.”

“The thing that most concerns me is the grind I’ll be playing at on a daily basis. You are playing just about every day, there are long bus rides, not much time to let your body recover. Once you make the adjustment to playing every day, I think that’s going to be the biggest adjustment.”

“I’m in this for the long haul and am going to give it my best shot. I’m going to compete until I can’t compete with the rest of the guys I’m playing with. It’s always been my dream to make it to the major leagues. I’m not going to give up on in until I know I’ve given it my best shot.”

Craig Cooper UPDATED BIO. CAPSULE (1B; Sr.; Plainview, N.Y.; as of June 19, 2006) – Became one of the highest-drafted seniors in Notre Dame baseball history (7th round; San Diego Padres) while also becoming the first ND baseball player ever to receive All-America honors at first base (the ND program has produced 17 All-America performers overall, with that group including 11 position players) … named a 2006 second team All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball magazine while earning third team All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America … also was one of 30 players named to the list of final candidates for the Brooks Wallace national player-of-the-year award and was member of the College Baseball Foundation’s 30-player All-America team … voting procedures prevented him from even being considered for All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association, as Ball State’s Ryan Miller was selected the first-team first baseman on the ABCA’s All-Mideast Region team while Cooper was relegated to the 2nd team (only all-region 1st teamers are eligible for ABCA All-Americans, a policy that eliminated several top players from consideration, including Washington RHP Tim Linecum) … joined Kentucky 1B Ryan Strieby and two OFs (Drew Stubbs of Texas and Kellen Kulbacki of James Madison) as the only position players to receive each of the following honors: among the final-30 candidates for the Brooks Wallace Award; a CBF All-American; a Collegiate Baseball 1st or 2nd team All-American; a Baseball America 1st or 2nd team All-American; and a NCBWA All-American … Cooper outhit Miller by 90 points (.425-.335) but the players filled different overall roles (Cooper as leadoff man with near-ND-record .522 on-base pct. and nation-leading 79 runs; Miller as cleanup batter, with 76 RBI and 21 home runs) … Cooper’s slugging pct. was just 24 points below Miller (.678 to .654), with both hitting 19 doubles while Cooper had 15 more total hits (97 to 82) and half as many strikeouts (14, to Miller’s 29) … became seventh different ND player to earn Baseball America All-America honors (since ’81), joining the likes of CFs Dan Peltier (1st team; ’89), Eric Danapilis (1st tm; ’93) and Steve Stanley (3rd tm in ’01; 2nd tm in ’02), 3Bs Brant Ust (3rd tm; ’98) and Matt Macri (2nd tm; ’04), and RHP Aaron Heilman (1st tm; ’01) … top notes from the impressive 2006 season from the BIG EAST player of the year include the following: leads nation in runs scored (79); 6th nationally in batting avg. (.425); posted nearly a 3-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio (38/14) and 17 more extra-base hits (31) than Ks; all-time leader in BIG EAST Conference history for career bating avg. in BIG EAST games (.444); unprecedented three-time BIG EAST batting champ; led ’06 ND offense in 20 categories, including .426 batting with runners on base and .575 leadoff on-base pct.; reached base in 55 of 57 games played (hits in 50; runs in 48); 3rd-best season on-base pct. in ND history (.522); tied ND record with 21-game hit streak …

Draft-Day Notes – The 41 previous MLB drafts had seen ND players (including incoming signees who ended up playing for the Irish) picked in the draft or signed as free agent a total of 120 times, but never by the Padres until Cooper became San Diego’s 7th-round pick in the ’06 draft … all 30 of the current Major League teams now have drafted or signed at least one ND player (or incoming player) … just nine previous ND position players have been drafted higher than Cooper, who became the 4th-highest senior draft pick in the program’s history (2nd-highest among senior position players), behind RHP Aaron Heilman (1st round, ’02; Mets), CF Steve Stanley (2nd rd, ’02; A’s) and RHP Steve Whitmyer (6th rd, ’83; Indians) … with LHP Tom Thornton picked in the 21st round (Tigers) and SS Greg Lopez going to the Blue Jays in the 33rd, the ND baseball program now has seen four seasons in which three seniors have been drafted (also ’93, ’01 and ’02) … none of the three (Cooper, Thornton and Lopez) had been drafted at any time previously in their baseball careers … just one previous pitcher/position player combination in ND history – the 2004 duo of RHP Grant Johnson (2nd rd; Cubs) and 3B Matt Macri (5th rd; Rockies) – has been drafted higher than junior RHP Jeff Samardzija (5th rd; Cubs) and Cooper … the only other pair of ND teammates to go higher in the draft than Samardzija/Cooper were outfielders Stanley and Brian Stavisky in 2002 (2nd and 6th rounds, both to the A’s) … Samardzija and Cooper are the seventh pair of ND teammates to each be drafted in the first 10 rounds (also ’96, ’98, ’99, ’01) … ND’s five draft picks in ’06 (also RHP Jeff Manship, 14th rd to Twins) has been bested just once in the program’s history (6, in ’01) …


Craig Cooper compiled one of the top all-around seasons ever by a Notre Dame player while picking up various All-America honors for the 2006 season.



Among the NCAA, BIG EAST and ND Leaders – Cooper currently leads the nation in total runs scored (79) and runs per game (1.39) while ranking 6th in batting avg. (.425) … North Carolina SS Josh Horton (.404) was the only other player from a top-25 team hitting above .400 (as of June 15) and was the only player from a Super Regional team among the NCAA’s top-50 hitters (.388-plus) … only two players from teams at the CWS could finish above Cooper in runs or runs per game … Oregon State’s Cole Gillespie (78 runs; 1.37) has played two games in Omaha and will play at least one more while Miami’s Jon Jay (77 runs, in 64 GP) has played one CWS game, with at least two more (including June 19 game vs. Rice) … also averaged 16.3 ABs per K (228/14) in 2006, placing him 25th on NCAA list of players who are “toughest to strike out” … joins Jackson State’s Joaquin Rodriguez (.457; 17.5) as the only players ranked among the NCAA top-25 for both season batting average and toughest to K … set the BIG EAST Conference record for career batting avg. in BIG EAST games (.444; 120-for-270), after claiming unprecedented third straight BIG EAST batting title in 2006 (.481 in league games; also .470 in ’04 and .403 in ’05, plus .345 in `03) … former Boston College player Kevin Penwell is the only other player in 22 years of BIG EAST baseball to win multiple batting titles (in ’95 and ’96)… former Rutgers player Joe Cirrone had held the BIG EAST record of .443 but he totaled just 115 career ABs (51 H) in his BIG EAST career, five fewer than Cooper’s hit total (the BIG EAST min. for the stat is 100 career ABs) … outdistanced RU’s Todd Frazier (.424) by 57 points to win ’06 BIG EAST batting title, also outdistancing West Virginia’s Casey Bowling by 22 points (.425-.403) to finish atop BIG EAST charts for overall 2006 batting avg. … prior to ’04 season, former ND standout 3B Brant Ust (in ’98) had been only player ever to lead the BIG EAST in conference batting avg., slugging pct. and on-base pct. for same season … Cooper became second player to lead all three categories in the ’04 (.470 batting, .573 on-base, .759 slugging) and duplicated the unique feat in ’06 (.481 batting, .573 on-base, .759 slugging) … also paced BIG EAST in OPS (1.332 on-base plus slugging), hits (52), runs (43), home runs (7, tied for lead) and total bases (82) during ’06 conference games, in addition to ranking 7th in walks (19) and 8th in RBI (24) … only four of the previous 16 BIG EAST batting champs – Rutgers SS Darren Fenster (.505, in ’99), ND’s Ust (.493, in ’98), UConn CF Mike Scott (.491, in ’01) and ND catcher/ DH Jeff Wagner (.488, in ’97) – have claimed the BIG EAST batting title with a higher avg. than Cooper’s .481 … for the overall ’06 season, he led all BIG EAST players in batting (.425), runs (79), hits (97) and on-base (.522), plus 2nd in OPS (1.065) and TBs (149), 4th in slugging (.543) and 2Bs (19), 7th in BBs (38), 9th in 3Bs (3) and 11th in HRs (9) … combined with ND junior RHP Jeff Manship for fifth time in history BIG EAST baseball (first time since ’99) that same team has produced the BIG EAST player and pitcher of the year … joined Ust (’98) and CF Steve Stanley as ND’s recipients of BIG EAST player of the year … sixth ND position player to earn all-BIG EAST recognition in three or more seasons (2nd team in ’04, 3rd tm in ’05, 1st tm in ’06), joining Wagner (4), Ust, Stanley, OF Brian Stavisky and 2B Steve Sollmann in that elite group … joined 2B/CF Randall Brooks (’96-’97) as only ND players ever to receive all-BIG EAST honors at distinctly different positions (OF in ’04 and ’05; 1B in ’06) … ended up 12th or higher on 12 different Notre Dame career lists: 7th in on-base (.461); 8th in hits (265) and runs (191); 9th in batting (.361), stolen bases (45), 2Bs (52), games played (221) and putouts (840); 10th in BB (111) and hit-by-pitch (30); and 12th in RBI (162) and AB (734) … compiled one of the top offensive seasons ever by an ND player in … his .522 season OB pct. ranks 3rd-best in ND history (tops in the 12-year Mainieri era), behind the .531 posted by Eric Danapilis in ’91 and Edwin Hartwell’s .529 in ’93 … late 1980s standouts Pat Pesavento (88 in ’89; 81 in ’88) and Dan Peltier (81 in ’89) are the only ND players ever to score more runs in a season than Cooper (79; 4th), who came up three shy of reaching 100 hits for the season (97; 5th) … Stanley (119 in ’02; 102 in ’01), Peltier (115 in ’89) and Sollmann (98, in ’03) are the only ND players with more hits in a season … his .425 season batting avg. is 6th-best in ND history (2nd in Mainieri era), behind Hartwell (.447, in ’93), Peltier (.446, in ’89), Stanley (.439, in ’02) and Danapilis (.438, in ’93; .429 in ’90) … also ended up with 149 total bases in ’06 (9th) … earned team MVP honors after leading the 2006 Irish offense in 20 categories: batting (.425), slugging (.654), OB (.522), OPS (1.176), hits (97), runs (79), HRs (9), 2Bs (19), BBs (38), TBs (149), plate-discipline ratio (+34; 38 BB+10 HBP-14 Ks) and plate appearances (278) – plus situational categories such as batting with runners on base (.426), in scoring position (.373) and with 2-outs (.327; 12 RBI), pct. advancing runners (62%), leadoff on-base pct. (.577), batting vs. both RHPs (.436) and LHPs (.397) and overall clutch-hitting score (1,133; .577 leadoff OB x .75, + .327 with RISP + .373 with 2-outs) … ended up 2nd on ’06 team in SBs (9), 3Bs (3), ABs (228) and starts (57, one behind team leader Greg Lopez), plus 4th in RBI (41) and HBPs (10) and 5th in GP (57) …

Other Career and Season Notes – Cooper’s full career stats are as follows: .361 batting avg. (265-for-734) in 221 GP/192 GS, 26 HR, 7 3B, 52 2B, 191 R, 162 RBI, .557 slug., .461 on-base, 1.018 OPS, 111 BB, 30 HBP, 81 K, 6 SF, 10 SAC, 45-62 SB, 10 E, .989 fielding pct. … had all 9 of his HRs in 2006 during 23-game win streak but none in final 23 games (37 H, 17 BB), ending up 4 HRs shy of becoming third ND player ever with 30-plus HRs and 30-plus SBs (45) in his career … named national player/hitter of the week twice in his career … earned that honor from Collegiate Baseball and the Rosenblatt Report in late April of ’06, after batting 10-for-19 (.526) with 13 RBI, 9 R, 4 HR, 2 2B, 5 BB and a HBP in 5-game span (vs. Toledo and IPFWW, plus series with Rutgers) … third player in 12-year Paul Mainieri era to post multiple hit streaks of 13-plus games (13, late in ’05; 21, mid-’06) … CF Steve Stanley had a 16-game hit streak in ’00 and a 13-game streak in ’02 while 2B Steve Sollmann had 13- and 15-game hit streaks in ’03 … reached base 39-of-54 times (72.2%) when leading off the game for 2006 ND offense, batting 29-for-45 (.644) in 1st-ining leadoff plate appearances, including (4 HR, 1.089 slugging pct., 8 2B, 8 BB, also reached on HBP and E) … his official OPS (on-base plus slugging) was an off-the-charts 1.793 as the 1st-inning leadoff batter in ’06 … led by Cooper, the 2006 Irish offense hit .352 as a team in the 1st inning (67-35 scoring edge) … scored 28 of his nation-leading 79 runs in the 1st inning of ’06 season … had hits in 65 of his final 74 games with the Irish (hits in 54 of final 59 in the regular season) … reached base in all but two of his 57 games played in ’06 season, with hits in 50 of those games and runs scored in 48 … reached base in each of his first 34 games played during ’06 season and scored in 16 straight games after opener … had a streak of 44 games played without grounding into a double play (ended in ’06 postseason) … possibly would have compiled a 31-game hit streak in 2006 if he could have managed another AB or two vs. Central Michigan on March 22 (0-for-1, with 3 BB and sac. fly, ending 9-game hit streak, followed by 21-game hit streak that tied ND record) … compiled strong 2006 batting marks both at home (.461, 41-for-89) and on the road (.403, 56-for-139) .. ND was 43-10-1 in ’06 with him batting in leadoff spot (4-5 when another player served as leadoff batter) … narrowly missed a chance at being considered for 2006 Academic All-America honors, entering ’06 spring semester with a 3.197 cumulative GPA as political science major (min. 3.20) … followed with 3.83 GPA in ’06 spring semester, graduating with 3.26 cumulative GPA while being one of 24 Irish players with 3.0-plus GPA for ’06 spring term.

2006 Game Highlights – Cooper did not play in an early stretch that saw ND lose four straight to top teams (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota and Arizona) … had pair of top efforts on Spring Break trip in San Antonio, vs. Iowa (4-for-5, RBI, 3 R, 2B, HBP; 16-2) and Southern Illinois (3-for-5, RBI, R; 12-2) … his 7-for-13 BIG EAST home series vs. Pittsburgh (3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 2B, 2 BB, SB) included 3-for-5 game to help fuel rally in 9-8 series finale (RBI, 3 R, HR, 2B, BB) … followed with 9-for-13 weekend to lead sweep at South Florida (4 RBI, 7 R, HR, 3B, 2 BB, 2 SB), collecting three hits in all three games … had multiple hits in 11 of 12 games from March 29-April 13 … continued his impressive career batting vs. rival Rutgers by batting 8-for-1 with 3 HR in sweep (9 RBI, 8 R, 2 2B, 4 B, HBP) … had first 2-HR game of his career in 11-5 opener vs. RU (4 RBI, BB) before matching career high with 5 RBI in 14-12 series finale (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, BB) … joined teammates Sean Gaston (in ’04) and Brett Lilley (in ’05) as one of 31 ND players ever to post 5-plus hits in a game, in 7-3 game-2 win at UConn (5-for-5, RBI, 3 R) … closed career at Eck Stadium by batting 7-for-11 in series with Louisville (RBI, 6 R, 3B, 4 BB), walking four times in 11-3 opener and then hitting 4-for-5 in final home game (RBI, 2 R, 3B; 6-9) … hit 3-for-5 to help win game-2 at Seton Hall (3 R, 2B; 14-12) … clinched BIG EAST record for career batting avg. in conference games after hitting 3-for-4 in road game vs. Villanova (2 RBI, 2 R, HBP; 12-1) … collected hits in final six games, including 12-4 BIG EAST Tournament win over West Virginia (2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, BB), elimination-game win over St. John’s (2-for4, 2 RBI, 2 2B, BB; 5-3) and 7-0 title game vs. Louisville (2-for-4, 2 RBI, SF) … closed career with hits in NCAA Lexington Regional games vs. College of Charleston (2-for-7, R, BB; 4-5 in 16 innings) and Kentucky (2-for-3, R, BB; 4-10), earning a spot on the regional’s all-tournament team (alongside teammate Alex Nettey).

Craig Cooper's Notre Dame Career Stats

2003.. .303 46/31 122 22 37 6 2 0 15 47 .385 15 4 23 .397 0 2 10-13 38-4-1-.977
2004.. .360 58/46 175 42 63 13 1 10 48 108 .617 25 2 22 .441 2 4 12-17 83-1-2-.977
2005.. .325 60/58 209 48 68 14 1 7 58 105 .502 33 14 22 .446 2 4 14-17 196-11-3-.986
2006.. .425 57/57 228 79 97 19 3 9 41 149 .654 38 10 14 .522 2 0 9-15 52-43-4-.993
TOTAL. .361 221/192 734 191 265 52 7 26 162 409 .557 111 30 81 .461 6 10 45-62 840-59-10-.989
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