Jan. 17, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former Notre Dame baseball player Craig Counsell (’92) has retired after a 16-year major league career with the Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona and most recently Milwaukee. The Brewers have hired him as a special assistant to general manager Doug Melvin.
“We are pleased to have Craig join our organization in a very significant role,” Melvin said. “His knowledge of how to play the game along with his work ethic and passion to see the Brewers succeed will now be utilized and welcomed by our front office.”
“I am excited to begin a new challenge in baseball,” Counsell said. “I look forward to contributing in any way I can to the success of an organization that has been a special part of my life for many years.”
Counsell, who turned 41 in August, played all or part of 16 seasons in the major leagues, appearing in 1,624 games as a versatile infielder that played second base, shortstop and third base. He compiled a .255 batting average with 218 doubles, 40 triples, 42 home runs, 647 runs and 390 RBI in 4,741 at-bats.
Counsell played his last five seasons in the majors with his hometown Brewers, serving as a valuable backup at three infield positions. He grew up in nearby Whitefish Bay, played high school ball there and attended the University of Notre Dame.
Counsell – whose father John (’64) was a player and assistant coach with the Irish during the 1960s and early ’70s – led the Notre Dame baseball program to national prominence in the early 1990s, with his four-year career including a .306 batting average, 204 runs scored, 166 RBI, 50 doubles and twice as many walks (166, still most in the ND record book) as strikeouts (82).
As a senior, the versatile infielder was named MVP of a 1992 Irish squad that included 14 eventual professional draft picks, with his impressive final season including a .339 batting average, 63 RBI (nearly doubling his previous career-best), twice as many home runs (12) as he had hit during the previous three seasons combined (six), 45 walks and 13 stolen bases. Counsell was named to the 1992 NCAA all-Atlantic Regional team, after captaining the Irish to within a game of the College World Series (the current Super Regional format did not take effect until ’99).
Colorado selected Counsell in the 11th round of the 1992 MLB draft and he worked his way through the Rockies organization, playing three games with the big-league club in 1995 before receiving another call-up midway through the ’97 season.
A fortuitous trade quickly sent him to Florida and he batted .299 while playing in 51 regular-season games with the 1997 Marlins. Counsell then hit .293 in 15 postseason games for the World Series champs, with his sacrifice fly forcing extra innings in Game-7 of the World Series before he scored the game-winning run in the 11th to defeat the Cleveland Indians.
Counsell reprised that hero status four years later as a member of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, after earning MVP honors for the National League Championship Series (when he hit 8-for-21 with four RBI and five runs scored) and then helping defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Counsell still makes his home in Whitefish Bay, where he and wife Michelle raise four children. He has served as an ambassador for the Fatherhood Initiative, a Milwaukee project that helps reinforce the role of dads in kids’ lives. The couple recently began supporting financially and with personal appearances initiatives such as the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, the Midwest Athletes Against Cancer Fund, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and the annual Drive for Charity. They also contributed to the renovation of the baseball locker room at Notre Dame (named in former Irish head coach Pat Murphy’s honor) and have supported the construction of a youth baseball field near Phoenix and several youth baseball organizations in the Milwaukee area.
— ND —