Matt Bransfield is one of four seniors from the 2006 Notre Dame baseball team who have moved on to professional baseball (photo by Pete LaFleur).

Former Notre Dame Baseball Player Matt Bransfield Signs Free-Agent Contract With Gateway Grizzlies

June 27, 2006

Another member of the 2006 Notre Dame baseball team has moved on to professional baseball, as recent graduate Matt Bransfield has signed as a free-agent with the Gateway Grizzlies, an independent team based in southern Illinois (Sauget) that plays in the Frontier League. Bransfield is expected to fill a utility position player role with the Grizzlies, after splitting time during his Notre Dame career as a designated hitter, outfielder, first baseman and even catcher. Bransfield becomes the fifth member of the 2006 team to move on to pro ball, joining fellow graduates Craig Cooper, Tom Thornton and Greg Lopez, along with junior pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame (dating back to 1995) now has seen 49 different Irish players be selected in the Major League draft (36) or sign as free-agents (13), with 37 of those 49 players developing into pro prospects at Notre Dame after having gone undrafted out of high school.

Notre Dame’s 2006 team produced a total of six players who were drafted or signed as free-agents, with junior righthander Jeff Manship selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round. Manship has yet to sign and was scheduled to report today to the Delaware (Ohio) Cows, a collegiate summer team in the Great Lakes League.

A total of 19 former Notre Dame baseball players currently are active in professional baseball, including three on the Major League level and three others who have played at the triple-A level this season.

Here are some updated notes on Notre Dame’s pro players, including a final career bio. Capsule for Bransfield:

PRO-RATED – The previous time that six or more Notre Dame baseball players were drafted/signed as free agents came in 2001, when pitchers Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo, shortstop Alec Porzel, outfielders Brian Stavisky and Steve Stanley, and catcher Paul O’Toole all were selected in the MLB draft (Stavisky, Stanley and O’Toole each returned to be key members of the 2002 College World Series team) … only one team in ND’s history has produced more draft picks/free agents (8) than the 2001 or ’06 teams, as the 1996 squad featured five draft picks (RHP Christian Parker, CF Scott Sollmann, 1B George Restovich and OFs Rowan Richards and Mike Amrhein) and three free-agents (RHPs Craig Allen and Rich Sauget and C Bob Lisanti) … all of those players – with the exception of Amrhein (who went on to be a 10th-round draft pick in 1997) – entered pro baseball after the ’96 season … the 2006 group of Samardzija, Cooper, Thornton, Lopez and Bransfield marks the fifth time since the inception of the MLB draft (in 1965) that five or more players from the same ND team have moved on to professional baseball … the others include the seven mentioned above in 1996, plus five each in 1993, 2002 and ’04 … the ’93 team sent pitchers Chris Michalak, David Sinnes and Alan Walania on to pro ball, along with outfielders Eric Danapilis and Edwin Hartwell … in ’02, Stanley, Stavisky and O’Toole all moved on the play in various Major League organizations (as did 3B/C Andrew Bushey and DH Matt Bok) … the five pro products that emerged from the ’04 team included RHPs Grant Johnson and Chris Niesel, 3B Matt Macri, 2B Steve Sollmann and C Javi Sanchez.

SENIOR SIGNEES – Four senior members of Notre Dame’s 2006 baseball team now have moved on to pro ball: 1B Craig Cooper (7th round; San Diego Padres), LHP Tom Thornton (21st round; Detroit Tigers), SS Greg Lopez (33rd round; Toronto Blue Jays) and LF/DH Matt Bransfield (free-agent signee with independent Gateway Grizzlies) … it marks the sixth time in ND baseall history that four or more seniors from the same team have moved on to play at the pro level (also five in ’93 and ’96; four in ’90, ’02 and ’03) … the five from 1993 are mentioned in the above note (Michalak, Sinnes, Walania, Danapilis, Hartwell), as are the five from 1996 (Restovich, Richards, Allen, Lisanti and Sauget) … the four seniors from the 2002 CWS team that went on to pro ball include the aforementioned Stanley, Bushey, O’Toole and Bok … the 1990 seniors that headed off to the minor leagues were utility player Matt Hass, catcher Ed Lund and pitchers Mike Coffey and Brian Piotrowicz … the senior group from 2003 that continued player on the pro level included RHPs J.P. Gagne, Ryan Kalita and Matt Laird, plus OF Kris Billmaier.

Jeff Samardzija UPDATE – Samardzija was slated to make his debut with the Northwest League’s Boise Hawks in tonight’s road game versus the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes … 30 of the 47 players selected by the Cubs in the 2006 MLB draft were college players … the 29 players listed on the Boise roster include 17 former college players, four who entered pro ball straight from high school and eight foreign players (six Dominicans, plus one each from Venezuela and Italy) … the other college players on the Hawks include former Pittsburgh RHP Billy Muldowney (8th round), plus two others picked in the first 10 rounds (Cal Poly 3B Josh Lansford and Chipola JC shortstop Steven Clevenger) … other college baseball products of note on the current Boise roster include: N.C. State CF Matthew Camp, Cal Poly catcher Matthew Canepa, North Florida LHP Jeremy Papelbon (brother of Boston Red Sox closer Jonathon Papelbon), Citadel SS Matt Matulia and California RHP Michael Cooper … the Hawks roster also includes a handful of veteran pro players who took the college baseball route, among them: Cal Poly RHP Rocky Roquet, Central Michigan LHP Jayson Ruhlman (CMU) and Dayton LHP Jerry Blevins (Dayton) … other college players of note who were selected by the Cubs in the 2006 MLB draft include Clemson OF Tyler Colvin (1st round) and 3B Marquez Smith, Arkansas catcher Richard Parker, San Diego 2B Keoni Ruth, Missouri LHP Taylor Parker and Florida State 3B Ryne Malone.

Craig Cooper UPDATE – – Cooper ranks second among the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds regulars with a .333 batting avg. (9-for-27) while having played in six games at first base and DH (HR, 2 2B, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 7 Ks) … Eugene’s 30-man roster includes 19 former college players, eight foreign players (four Dominicans and two from Mexico, plus one each from Columbia and Australia) and just three who entered pro ball directly from high school … Cooper and former UConn RHP Nick Tucci are two of 14 college baseball products on the Emeralds who just were picked in the 2006 draft, with the others including: Wake Forest 3B Matt Antonelli (1st round), TCU 2B Chad Huffman (2nd round) Central Florida RHP Tim Bascom, Troy SS Tom King (8th), South Alabama 3B David Frese (9th), Alabama C Kody Valverde (10th), New Orleans OF Michael Epping, Vanderbilt RHP Matt Buschmann, Cal State East Bay 2B Ray Stokes, Milsaps (Miss.) JC outfielder Garner Wetzel, Texas State OF Luke Cannon, Mississippi State LHP Brooks Dunn and Pepperdine 2B Nick Kliebert … veteran pro players on the Eugene roster who are former college players include the likes of Virginia Commonwealth LHP Justin Mattison and Clemson RHP Patrick Clayton … like the Cubs, the Padres picked 30 college players among their 47 selections in the 2006 draft.

Tom Thornton UPDATE – – Thornton has made one start for the Oneonta (N.Y.) Tigers, logging 3.0 innings with one earned run allowed (2 UER, 3 H, K) … Oneonta’s 28-man roster includes 22 college players (14 from the 2006 draft class), four from the Dominican Republic and just two who headed to pro ball straight out of high school … Thornton is playing alongside seven top college products who were among Detroit’s picks in the first nine rounds: Ohio State 3B Ronnie Bourquin, California CF Brennan Boesch, Kentucky 1B Ryan Strieby (who faced Thornton in the ’06 NCAAs), Virginia Commonwealth SS 5 Scott Sizemore, Western Kentucky catcher Jordan Newton, Manhattan LHP Chris Cody (who upset Nebraska in the NCAAs) and South Alabama LHP Zach Piccola … other college players on the Oneonta roster include: Nebraska RHP Brett Jensen, Michigan State RHP Jeffrey Gerbe (who played for former ND assistant David Grewe), Oklahoma State CF Deik Scram, Cal Poly RHP Casey Fien, Missouri State RHP Christopher Krawczyk, Kent State CF Joseph Tucker, Ohio RHP Derek Witt … the Oneonta roster also includes several veteran pros who are former college starts, along them: Florida Atlantic RHP Matt O’Brien, Wichita State RHP Phil Napolitan, Michigan catcher Jeffrey Kunkel and Oral Roberts RHP Tim Robertson … other college players who were picked by the Tigers in the 2006 draft include three who just finished playing at the College World Series – North Carolina LHP Andrew Miller (1st round), Oregon State RHP Jonah Nickerson (7th round) and Cal State Fullerton RHP Lauren Gagnier (10th round) – plus other noteworthy college products such as: Vanderbilt RHP Casey Weathers, New Mexico 1B Christopher Carlson, Ball State CF Michael Sullivan (a longtime youth-baseball teammate of ND’s Jeff Samardzija), Kansas RHP Kodiak Quick, Michigan LHP Paul Hammond, Baylor RHP Ryan LaMotta, Old Dominion RHP Dana Arrowood, Kentucky 3B Michael Bertram and Clemson C Adrian Casanova … Detroit’s 50 picks in the 2006 draft included 38 college players.

Former Notre Dame Players Currently Active in Pro Baseball

Craig Counsell, IF (Arizona Diamondbacks)G   AB  R   H   2B  3B  HR  RBI BB  SO  SB  OBP SLG AVG61  258 37  73  10  3   2   24  13  35  9-15    .332    .368    .283
Brian Stavisky, OF (Midland Rockhound; A's, AA)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG21 87 15 26 5 0 1 12 11 17 0-0 .378 .391 .299
(Sacramento River Cats; A's, AAA)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG33 109 16 26 6 0 2 8 16 23 0-0 .333 .349 .239
Brant Ust, IF (Altoona Curve; Pirates, AA)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG34 107 12 21 2 0 4 12 11 23 0-1 .283 .327 .196
(Lynchburg Hillcats; Pirates, high-A)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG7 18 1 3 1 0 0 1 4 9 0-0 .375 .222 .167
Matt Macri, IF (Tulsa Drillers; Rockies, AA)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG66 229 28 55 7 2 6 30 15 52 2-3 .290 .367 .656
Steve Sollmann, IF (Brevard Country Manatees; Brewers, High-A)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG66 237 36 71 10 0 1 30 33 25 10-11 .408 .354 .300
Javi Sanchez, C (Fort Myers Miracle; Twins High-A) - injured
Craig Cooper, 1B/OF (Eugene Emeralds; Padres, Low-A)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG6 27 3 9 2 0 1 5 2 7 .333
Greg Lopez, IF (Pulaski Blue Jays; Blue Jays Low-A) - injured
Matt Edwards, 3B (Evansville Otters; Independent League)G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG29 106 16 34 7 2 3 18 14 21 1-2 .421 .509 .321
Matt Bransfield, UTIL (Gateway Grizzlies; independent league) - just signed free-agent contract
Brad Lidge, RHP (Houston Astros)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG.0-2 5.55 37 0 0 19 35.2 33 23/22 4 21 1 51 .241
Aaron Heilman, RHP (New York Mets)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG.0-2 4.39 34 0 0 0 41.0 41 22/20 3 15 1 36 .259
Danny Tamayo, RHP (Omaha Royals; Royals, AAA)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG7-3 4.21 7 3 0 0 25.2 24 12/12 4 4 3 26 .245
Chris Michalak, LHP (Louisville Bats; Reds, AAA)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG4-0 2.96 15 14 0 0 82.0 92 39/27 12 18 9 36 .287
Grant Johnson, RHP (Daytona Cubs; Cubs high-A)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG4-5 5.07 11 10 0 0 55.0 62 37/31 5 22 2 30 .291
Chris Niesel, RHP (Kinston Indians; Indians, high-A)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG3-0 4.65 17 0 0 0 31.0 35 17/16 6 15 4 34 .285
Ryan Doherty, RHP (South Bend Silver Hawks; Diamondbacks, low-A)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG4-0 2.12 20 0 0 2 34.0 23 12/8 1 7 1 45 .185
Tom Thornton, LHP (Oneonta Tigers; Tigers, low-A)W-L ERA G GS CG SV IP H R/ER HR BB HB SO AVG0-0 3.00 1 1 0 0 3.0 3 3/1 0 1
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (Boise Hawks; Cubs, low-A) - set to make pro debut on June 27

Matt Bransfield UPDATED BIO. CAPSULE (Sr., LF/DH; Englewood, Colo.; as of June 27, 2006) – Signed free-agent contract with the independent league Gateway Grizzles, following his senior season in 2006 … three of his classmates earlier were selected in the 2006 MLB draft, as were two juniors pitchers from the ’06 Irish squad … named by the College Sports Information Directors of America to the ESPN The Magazine first team Academic All-District V squad before advancing to the prestigious Academic All-America ballot … graduated with a 3.40 cumulative GPA, as a sociology major (3.78 in the 2006 spring semester) … earned third team all-BIG EAST Conference honors for the 2006 season … shared team lead in doubles (19) with All-American Craig Cooper, finishing one shy of becoming 11th different player in Notre Dame history with 20-plus doubles in a season … only three players in the BIG EAST – the West Virginia trio of Justin Jenkins (25), Stan Posluszny (22) and Tyler Kuhn (20) – totaled more doubles in the 2006 season … also finished 2nd on team behind Cooper in batting avg. (.333), slugging pct. (.525), home runs (6), hits (68) and total bases (107) while his 45 RBI 23re 2nd on the team behind Jeremy Barnes (49) … ranked 5th on team in games played (57), at-bats (204) and sac. bunts (5), with his other 2006 stats including a .383 on-base pct. (16 walks, 3 hit-by-pitch), 34 runs, 4 stolen bases, 53 games started, 4 sac. flies, 36 strikeouts and a triple (also grounded into just 2 doubles plays and had 4 errors, with a .954 fielding pct.) … led 2006 team in 2-out RBI (18) while owning team’s 2nd-best batting avg. vs. LHPs (.386), also ranking 3rd on team in batting with runners on (.351), in scoring position (.363) and with 2-outs (.307) plus 5th in batting vs. RHPs (.306) … proved to be ND’s 2nd-best batter on the road (.323) and vs. non-conference opponents (.343) during 2006 season … hit .382 in the month of April (3rd-best on team) … has posted career-best totals during 2006 season in batting avg. (.333), hits (68) and doubles (19) … his career stats with the Irish include a .317 batting avg. in 181 games (153 starts), a .494 slugging pct. (18 HR, 4 3B, 40 2B), 183 hits, 105 runs, 51 walks and 22 times hit-by-pitch (577 ABs, .386 OB, 102 Ks, 13 SF, 9 SAC, 5-10 SB, .974 fld. pct./5 Es) … helped Notre Dame compile one of the best four-year records in all of college baseball during his career (179-71-2, from ’03-’06) … as a sophomore, he led the Irish with 12 home runs and 58 RBI while finishing as the BIG EAST’s RBI leader in league play (30) … received the ND baseball team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award for 2006 season … his .333 batting avg. ended up 23rd-best among players from the 12-team BIG EAST in 2006 … homered in 2006 opener vs. Indiana State (2 RBI; 3-0, in Millington, Tenn.) … hit 3-for-5 in extra-inning loss to Memphis (2 RBI; 6-7, in Millington) … registered three straight 3-hit games during 2006 Spring Break trip in San Antonio, doing so with 3-for-5 efforts in both the second and third wins over Iowa (RBI, 2B, 2B in 6-2 game; then 2 RBI, 2 R, HR, 2B in 7-5 win) before batting 3-for-4 in 12-2 victory over Southern Illinois (RBI, 3 R, 3B, 2B, BB) … had strong opening games in 2006 BIG EAST series at South Florida (3-for-5, RBI, R; 9-6) and Seton Hall (3-for-4, 2 RBI, R; 6-7) … posted only 4-hit game of his career in nightcap of doubleheader with St. John’s (4-for-4, 2 RBI, R, BB; 13-7).

Matt Bransfield's Notre Dame Career Stats

2003.. .310 33/17 71 23 22 3 0 0 10 25 .352 3 3 19 .354 2 1 0-0 21-3-0-1.000
2004.. .306 59/54 206 44 63 12 3 12 58 117 .568 22 9 30 .388 5 1 0-3 34-3-0-1.000
2005.. .313 32/29 96 14 30 6 0 0 16 36 .375 10 7 17 .409 2 2 1-1 39-4-1-.977
2006.. .333 57/53 204 34 68 19 1 6 45 107 .525 16 3 36 .383 4 5 4-6 79-4-4-.954
TOTAL. .317 181/153 577 105 183 40 4 18 129 285 .494 51 22 102 .386 13 9 5-10 173-14-5-.974
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