May 2, 2016

As told to Nick Beals (`18)

University of Notre Dame baseball freshman infielder Nick Podkul came to the Golden Dome from Schererville, Indiana. He is enrolled in the First Year of Studies program with plans to study business in the Mendoza College of Business, the No. 2 undergraduate business school in the country as recently ranked by Bloomberg.

Podkul won back-to-back state championships at Andrean High School, where he was also named the second-best shortstop in Indiana and the 22nd best player overall by Perfect Game. Podkul is currently starting at first base and batting .314 with 27 hits, five doubles, one triple, nine RBI, 16 walks and 15 runs scored after entering the lineup midway through the season.

Q: When did you begin playing baseball and why?

A: Around age two or three. My dad played baseball, and my mom played sports. My little brother played baseball too, so it was just part of the family trend.

Q: Do you have a pregame ritual/tradition?

A: Ever since high school, I’ve taped my wrists before every game. It helps my mind get set on baseball.

Q: What’s your walk-up song and why?

A: “Who Gon Stop Me” by Jay Z and Kanye West. It has a cool beat drop, which pumps me up when I go out there [to home plate].

Q: If you could change one rule about baseball, what would it be?

A: Four strikes instead of three to give you an extra chance to get a hit.

Q: What is your favorite baseball accomplishment?

A: Winning state back-to-back years in high school during my junior and senior years. That was a really big accomplishment for me personally and, obviously, for our school and our team. The first one was awesome, and the second one was icing on the cake. It didn’t seem real at first.

Q: Who is your favorite professional athlete?

A: J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’ve always been a huge fan of his ever since he was on the Denver Nuggets with Allen Iverson. I love playing with him in 2K [NBA 2K video game], so I think that’s why he’s my favorite. I’m a huge fan.

Q: Favorite MLB team?

A: Chicago Cubs. I’m a die-hard Cubs fan.

Q: What did you learn from the upperclassmen when you first joined the team?

A: Early on, they really preached looking out for one another. They established a really good family atmosphere right off the bat, and they made all of the freshman feel really welcome. I just know that as I move up to become an upperclassmen I need to act like they did and take in the freshmen, make them feel like they are part of the team right away.

Q: Were there any guys any particular that were especially helpful?

A: Every senior was always there for you if you ever needed anything. They would always teach you on the field and off the field whenever you needed advice for something. It was a really big help.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Notre Dame?

A: I fell in love with it on my visit. Where I’m from [Schererville, Indiana], Notre Dame is obviously a really big school because I’m only about an hour away. It’s a great mix of academics and athletics. I just felt like it was the best place for me to play at the highest level. It felt like home when I visited here for the first time.

Q: How has the transition been from being a senior in high school and now having to be a freshman all over again?

A: It’s definitely tough going from being a senior in high school to a freshman in college because you basically restart the whole cycle. You just have to know your role and accept whatever that is whether you’re on the bench or you’re playing right away. You just have to be ready whenever you are called for. The upperclassmen make you feel like you’re part of the team right away so it’s not like you feel left out.

Q: How has it been finding your groove of late and contributing more to the team on the field?

A: It’s been a lot of fun. I got called upon to come in and Cole [Daily] and I made the most of our opportunities. Just going out there and having fun and doing all I can do to the best of my ability. The biggest thing is just having fun. It’s still a game so just being a kid out there.

Q: Favorite class?

A: Calculus [taken during summer school].

Q: How was summer school beneficial?

A: It was a huge transition. When the actual school year came, I knew where all of the classes were, and I knew all the ins and outs. It made it a lot less stressful to start.

Q: Favorite part about Notre Dame?

A: It’s just a great atmosphere in general. Obviously, baseball is awesome but just hanging out with the guys and being a part of Notre Dame. Wearing that Notre Dame on our jerseys and having that label that you go to Notre Dame is a huge honor, and it’s been a great experience so far.

The Irish have the week off for final exams before welcoming in Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh for a critical three-game conference series.

For more information on the Notre Dame baseball team, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).