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Draft Day Provides Many Noteworthy Firsts For Notre Dame Baseball Program

June 8, 2004

Here’s a look at Notre Dame’s record-setting day in the 2004 Major League draft, with updated bio. capsules and quotes from the draftees and ND coaches still to come later on

LOFTY COMPANY – Senior catcher Javi Sanchez, selected in the 14th round with the 421st overall pick, gave Notre Dame five draft picks quicker than all but four other teams – the last two NCAA runner-ups (South Carolina and Stanford, with seven each) and the last two NCAA champions (Texas and Rice, with six each).

FANTASTIC FIVE – An unprecedented five Irish players – junior RHP Grant Johnson (2nd round, Chicago Cubs), junior 3B Matt Marci (5th rd, Colorado Rockies), junior RHP Chris Niesel (9th rd, Cleveland Indians), senior 2B Steve Sollmann (10th rd, Milwaukee Brewers) and senior C Javi Sanchez (14th rd, Minnesota Twins) – were selected in the first 14 rounds of the 2004 Major League draft … the 1996 ND team also had five players drafted (in the 4th, 7th, 17th, 47th and 99th rounds) while the ND record for most players drafted from one team belongs to the 2001 squad (ND’s fifth player was not selected until the 48th round in ’01) … those ’01 draftees included RHPs Aaron Heilman (31st overall pick, N.Y. Mets) and Danny Tamayo (10th rd, K.C. Royals), SS Alec Porzel (13th rd, Boston Red Sox), OFs Brian Stavisky (33rd rd, Chicago Cubs) and Steve Stanley (50th rd, Florida Marlins) and C Paul O’Toole (48tht rd, S.F. Giants), with Stavisky, Stanley and O’Toole each returning as key members of the 2002 College World Series team.

SEVEN-YEAR RUN – The 2004 draft marks the seventh straight season that at least three Notre Dame players have been selected … in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era, the ND program now has seen 40 of its players be drafted or signed as free agents – including 31 draft picks and 16 who were selected in the first 10 rounds.

PROVING GROUND – Notre Dame players have developed into pro prospects at a consistent level during the 10-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri … 11 of 13 players drafted out of high school have gone on to be higher-round draft picks as member of the Notre Dame baseball program, which also now has produced 21 players during the last 10 seasons who were drafted out of Notre Dame despite going undrafted as high school seniors.

ELITE PAIR – Grant Johnson – who still has two years of eligibility remaining (due to shoulder surgery that wiped out his sophomore season), if he elects not to sign with his hometown Cubs – and Macri are the highest-drafted teammates in ND baseball history … that honor previously belonged to the 2002 outfield tandem of senior Steve Stanley and Brian Stavisky, who both were selected by the Oakland A’s in the ’02 draft (2nd and 6th round, respectively).

TOP-10 PICKS – No previous Irish squad had produced more than two selections in the first 10 rounds, with the 2004 team doubling that mark with drafts picks in the 2nd, 5th, 9th and 10th rounds … the five previous pairs of ND players who were drafted in the first 10 rounds include: RHP Christian Parker (4th rd, Expos) and OF Scott Sollmann (7th rd, Tigers) in 1996; RHP Brad Lidge (1st rd, Astros) and OF Allen Greene (9th rd, Yankees) in 1998; SS Brant Ust and LHP Tim Kalita in 1999 (6th and 7th rds, both to Tigers); RHPs Aaron Heilman (supplemental/31st overall, Mets) and Danny Tamayo (10th rd, Royals) in ’01; and OFs Steve Stanley and Brian Stavisky in ’02 (2nd and 6th rds, both to A’s).

IMPRESSIVE INFIELDERS – Matt Macri (5th rd) and Steve Sollmann (10th) became the highest-drafted pair of infielders in ND baseball history … in fact, just one previous ND team (1993) has featured multiple infielders who were selected in the MLB draft (SS Paul Failla was a 3rd-round pick of the Angels and utility IF Matt Haas a 44th-round selection of the Expos).

SENIOR SUCCESS – Steve Sollmann’s 10th-round selection by the Brewers makes him the sixth-highest drafted senior in ND baseball history, behind RHP Aaron Heilman (1st rd, Mets, ’01), CF Steve Stanley (2nd rd, A’s, ’02), RHP Steve Whitmyer (6th rd, Indians, ’83), OF/1B Frank Jacobs (7th rd, Mets, ’91) and LHP Ed Lupton (8th rd, ’65, Senators) … former ND catcher Mike Amrhein also was a 10th-round pick as a senior (Cubs, ’97), as was RHP Danny Tamayo in 2001 (Royals) … Sollmann and Javi Sanchez (14th round) are the 2nd-highest pair of drafted seniors in the program’s history, behind Heilman and Tamayo and ahead of Stanley and 3B Andrew Bushey (15th rd, Rockies) … the 10-year Paul Mainieri era now has featured 11 seniors who have been selected in the MLB draft (all in the first 17 rounds).

TOP OF THE HEAP – Grant Johnson is the fifth Notre Dame player to be selected in the first two rounds of the MLB draft and the fourth in the last seven seasons – joining RHPs Brad Lidge (1st rd/17th pick by Astros in 1998) and Aaron Heilman (supplemental pick/31st overall by the Mets in 2000, then 18th overall by the Mets in ’01) and CF Steve Stanley (2nd rd/67th overall pick, by the A’s in ’02) … catcher Ken Plesha was a 1st-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1965 (17th overall pick) … Plesha, Lidge and Heilman each were selected within one pick of each other during the 1st round (17th-18th) while Stanley and Johnson ended up just one pick apart in their respective 2nd rounds (66th-67th).

PREVIOUS DRAFT HISTORY – Each of the ND’s three juniors who were selected on Monday slipped down the 2001 draft due to their strong commitments to join the ND baseball program … Matt Macri was projected by Baseball America as a 1st-rounder in 2001 (ended up as 17th-round pick of the Twins) while Grant Johnson was forecasted to be a 2nd-rounder in ’01 (no team even bothered drafting him, due to his strong ND commitment) … Chris Niesel was slotted as a 3rd-10th rounder in 2001 (the Cubs took him in the lategoing, as a 46th-round pick) … Steve Sollmann and Javi Sanchez both went undrafted as preps while Sollmann returned for his senior season after being a 32nd-round pick of the Oakland A’s in 2003 … Macri had been eligible for the 2003 draft as a sophomore but was not selected.

FAMILIAR FRANCHISES – The Cubs and Rockies both became the first teams ever to draft an active ND player three years in a row (see lists below) … the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted and/or signed ND players as free agents every year from 1994-97 while the New York Yankees drafted future ND players Brant Ust and Aaron Heilman (respectively in 1996 and ’97), plus active ND players Mike Amrhein and Allen Greene in ’96 and ’98 (respectively) … the Cubs now have either drafted/signed as free-agents at least one ND player every year since 2000.

ND-CUBS DRAFT HISTORY – Johnson is the ninth Notre Dame player to be drafted/signed as a free agent by the Cubs (either during his ND career or out of high school) … all nine of those ND players have been drafted and/or signed by the Cubs in the last nine seasons, including seven in the last five years (at least one, every year since 2000) … other ND draftees by the Cubs have included catchers Mike Amrhein (10th round, 1997) and Paul O’Toole (21st rd, ’02) and RHP Ryan Kalita (17th rd, ’03) while four others – C Bob Lisanti (’96), 1B Jeff Felker (’00) and RHPs John Corbin (’00) and Matt Laird (’03) – have signed as free agents with the Cubs … former ND outfielder Brian Stavisky was a 33rd-round pick of the Cubs in 2001 (sophomore-eligible) but returned for his junior season … finally, current junior RHP Chris Niesel was projected to go in the first 10 rounds of the 2001 draft but slid to the 46th round (selected by the Cubs), due to his strong commitment to play for the Irish.

ND-ROCKIES DRAFT HISTORY – Macri is the fourth ND player – but first non-senior – to be drafted by the Rockies, who now have drafted a Notre Dame player in each of the last three seasons … SS Craig Counsell was a 11th-round pick of Colorado in 1992 (he has since gone on to play for World Series champions with Florida and Arizona and currently is a member of the Milwaukee Brewers) … the Rockies then drafted former Irish 3B/C Andrew Bushey in 2002 (15t rd) and closer J.P. Gagne in 2003 (14th rd).

ND-INDIANS DRAFT HISTORY – The Indians have drafted an active ND player just once previously, more than 20 years ago when RHP Steve Whitmyer (currently the head coach at Navy) was a 6th-round pick in 1983 … two former ND pitchers – Christian Parker (22nd rd, ’94) and Martin Vergara (15th rd, ’01) – were drafted by Cleveland after their senior years in high school.

ND-BREWERS DRAFT HISTORY – Sollmann is the first active ND player ever drafted by the Brewers, who signed a pair of ND players – 1B Tim Hutson (’88) and OF/2B James Sass (’89) – as free agents in the late 1980s … former Irish SS Paul Turco was drafted by the Brewers out of high school (57th rd, ’95).

ND-TWINS DRAFT HISTORY – The only former ND player who has gone on to play in the Twins organization is 1B Dan Leatherman (a free-agent signee in 1998) … two Irish RHPs – Robert Bentley (30th rd, ’66) and Aaron Heilman (supplemental pick/31st overall, ’00) – were drafted by Minnesota but returned to Notre Dame for their senior seasons while SS Matt Macri went on to play for ND after being a 17th-round pick of the Twins out of high school (he had been projected as a 1st-rounder in ’01 but fell due to his strong commitment to ND) … former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann was drafted by the Twins as a SS prospect in 1971 (39th round).

COLLEGE PIPELINE – The quality of college pitching during the 2004 season was evident in Monday’s selections, as Johnson was the 25th college pitcher selected among the first 66 picks (which included just 15 high school pitchers). Macri was the sixth third baseman among the first 140 picks.

BIG EAST DRAFT PICKS – The first day of the MLB draft (18 rounds) featured 15 draft picks from BIG EAST Conference teams … Boston College RHP Chris Lambert was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 19th overall pick , marking the 10th time in the last 11 seasons that the BUIG EAST has produced at least one first rounder … in addition to Lambert and ND’s five picks, here are the other nine players from the BIG EAST who were drafted on day-1: Rutgers OF Jeff Frazier (3rd rd, Tigers) and RHP Jack Egbert (13th rd, White Sox), Virginia Tech RHP Jeff Landing (12th rd, Mets), St. John’s SS Mike Rozema (14th rd, Braves), West Virgnia SS Grant Psomas (15th rd, Mets) and LHP Zac Cline (15th rd, Phillies), BC LHP Michael Wlodarczyk (15th rd, Expos) and RHP Jake Marsello (18th rd, Cubs) and Seton Hall LHP Chris Noonan (17th rd, Cardinals).

REGIONAL ROUNDUP – All four teams in last weekend’s NCAA South Bend Regional had players drafted in the first 14 rounds on Monday, including ND’s five plus: UC Irvine RHP Brett Smith (2nd rd, Yankees), Arizona RHP Koley Kolberg (7th rd, Diamondbacks), SS John Hardy (7th rd, Phillies) and C Richard Mercado (12th rd, Dioamondbacks), and Kent State RHP Andrew Sonnanstine (13th rd, Devil Rays) … 11 other players from teams on ND’s 2004 schedule were drafted in the first 14 rounds, including three each from Minnesota – LHP Glen Perkins (1st rd/22nd pick, Twins), RHP Craig Molldrem (8th rd, Marlins) and CF Sam Steidl (12th rd, Dodgers) – and Central Florida: RHPs Matt Fox (compensation round/35th pick, Twins) and Kyle Bono (8th rd, Red Sox) and OF Clay Timpner (4th rd, Giants) … others included Florida Atlantic OF Jeff Fiorentino (3rd rd, Orioles), Southern Illinois RHP Eric Haberer (SIU, RHP; 3rd rd, Cardinals), San Diego State RHP Ryan Schroyer (5th rd, Red Sox), USC 1B Joey Metropoulos (9th rd, Blue Jays) and Texas Tech 2B Josh Haney (11th rd, Royals).