June 21, 2006

Former Notre Dame pitcher Jeff Samardzija (Valparaiso, Ind.) officially has signed with the Chicago Cubs organization and is set to begin his professional baseball career as a member of the Boise (Idaho) Hawks. Samardzija maintains his eligibility with the Irish football team but – by signing with the Cubs – will forego his senior season with the Notre Dame baseball program. The Hawks have yet to announce the debut for Samardzija, who will be interviewed today on ESPN’s Cold Pizza (at approximately 12:20 p.m. EDT).

Samardzija has plans to pursue a professional career in both baseball and football, a challenge that a handful of college football players have pursued in recent years. Quarterbacks Matt Mauck (LSU) and Quincy Carter (Georgia) both played minor-league baseball in the Cubs organization before starting their college football careers (each stopped playing pro baseball at that time). Two others – Texas running back Ricky Williams and Florida quarterback Doug Johnson – both played minor-league baseball during their college football careers (Williams with the Philadelphia Phillies organization and Johnson in the Tampa Devil Rays minor-league system). Chris Wienke was a minor-league player in the Toronto Blue Jays system before starting his college football career later in life and ultimately earning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Florida State. Each of the above players also went on to play in the National Football League.

If Samardzija goes on to play professionally in baseball and football, he would become the first Notre Dame baseball player to go on to play two sports professionally since Ron Reed played in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball during the 1960s.

Boise has opened its season with a current five-game homestand versus the Eugene Emeralds, a team that includes Samardzija’s former Notre Dame teammate Craig Cooper. Boise already has announced its starting pitcher for tonight’s game, with the series versus Eugene running through Friday, June 23. The Hawks then will play at the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes from June 24-28 and in Pasco, Wash., versus the Tri-City Dust Devils from June 29-July 1 before Northwest League homestands versus the Yakima Bears (July 2-4) and the Dust Devils (July 5-7).


Jeff Samardzija is nearing his professional baseball debut as a member of the Boise Hawks (photo by Pete LaFleur).



Other teams in the Northwest League include four teams from the state of Washington: the Vancouver Canadians, the Spokane Indians, the Everett AquaSox and the Yakima Bears.

Several recent Notre Dame players have started their pro careers in the Northwest League, including three each with Tri-City (3B/C Andrew Bushey, RHP J.P. Gagne and 3B Matt Macri) and Boise (C Paul O’Toole and RHPs Matt Laird and Ryan Kalita), plus RHP Danny Tamayo with Spokane, OF Brian Stavisky in Vancouver and RHP Ryan Doherty with Yakima. Three other recent Irish players made their debut in the NY-Penn League: SS Alec Porzel (Lowell), RHP Chris Niesel (Mahoning Valley) and 1B Matt Edwards (Batavia). Former Notre Dame catcher Javi Sanchez started his pro career in the Appalachian League with Elizabethton.

Samardzija could return to South Bend later in his pro career, as a member of the the Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs of the Midwest League (which includes the South Bend Silverthawks).

Jeff Samardzija UPDATED BIO. CAPSULE (RHP; Jr.; Valparaiso, Ind.; as of June 19, 2006) – Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the 2006 MLB draft (the Cubs did not have a pick in the 2nd-4th rounds) … was projected by Baseball America as the 20th-best overall prospect (including high school players) heading into draft day but fell to the 5th round due to his dual commitments to baseball and football … 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 Samardzija and senior 1B Craig Cooper (7th rd; Padres) … the only other pair of ND teammates to go higher in the draft than Samardzija/Cooper were OFs Stanley and Brian Stavisky in ’02 (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) … joined with fellow junior RHP Jeff Manship (14th rd; Twins) and senior LHP Tom Thornton (21st rd; Tigers) in marking the first time that three ND pitches have been selected in the same draft … ND’s five draft picks in ’06 (also SS Greg Lopez in 33rd round to the Blue Jays) has been bested just once in the program’s history (6, in ’01) … ND players (including the incoming signees who joined the Irish) now have been drafted or signed as a free agents a total of 125 times and the Cubs have drafted/signed the most ND players from that group (11; all since 1996) … ND’s other noteworthy Cubs draft picks have included: C Mike Amrhein (’97; 10th rd), OF Brian Stavisky (’01; 33rd rd; draft-eligible soph./returned to ND), C Paul O’Toole (’02; 21st round) and RHP Grant Johnson (’04; 2nd rd) … on pace to possibly graduate at the end of the 2006 fall semester … one of 21 ND baseball players who posted a GPA of 3.0-plus in the 2005 semester and then was one of 24 Irish baseball players to top the 3.0 GPA mark in the 2006 spring (in-season) semester … joined Manship to form just the seventh pairs of pitchers from the same team who have been first team all-BIG EAST selections in the same season (since ’85) … only two other pairs of starting pitchers since 1992 (including ND’s Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo in 2001) have been named first team all-BIG EAST … compiled 21-6 record in his three seasons with the Irish … just 12 pitchers in the 114-year history of Notre Dame baseball have won more games in their careers (22-plus) … his other career stats include a 3.82 ERA in 50 appearances (31 starts), with 159 strikeouts, 84 walks and 236 hits allowed (.256 opp. batting avg.; 11 HRs) in 240.1 innings (11 wild pitches, 18 hit batters, plus a save in ’04) … ended up with 15th-best overall ERA (4.33) among “regular” pitchers (at least 1.0 IP per team game) in the 12-team BIG EAST while also ranking 3rd in the BIG EAST for innings (97.2) and starts (15), 4th in wins (8-3) and 8th in Ks “looking” (24) … his 59.2 innings during league action ranked 6th-most among BIG EAST pitchers … led Notre Dame’s 2006 staff in innings pitched (97.2) and games started (15) while ranking 2nd in wins (8-2), 3rd in strikeouts (61) and Ks “looking” (20), and 5th in appearances (15) … his other 2006 season statistics included 37 walks, 101 hits allowed (3 home runs), a .272 opp. batting avg., 5 hit batters and 5 wild pitches … led team with 115 groundball outs, as 60% of his outs (176 of 293) came via Ks or GOs (10.60 per 9 IP; 5th-most on staff) … compiled 1.16 groundout-to-flyout ratio … averaged team-best 6.2 innings per outing while his 9-inning averages included 5.62 Ks, 3.41 walks, 9.31 hits and 39.26 batters faced … owned 2nd-best opponent 2-out batting avg. on the staff (.211) while holding lefthanded hitters to .234 batting (5th-best) … his other situational stats included a .388 opp. leadoff on-base pct., .267 opp. batting with runners on base and .291 by RH hitters … 10 of his 15 starts in 2006 came as the game-1 starter (in series or tournament) … reached the 7th inning in eight of his starts while pitching 6-plus innings 11 times … failed to reach the 5th inning only once in ’06 season … his career stats in three seasons with the Irish include a 21-6 record, good for the 13th-most wins in the 114-year history of Notre Dame baseball … also compiled a 3.82 career ERA in 50 appearances (31 starts), with 159 strikeouts, 84 walks and 236 hits allowed (.256 opp. avg.) in 240.1 innings pitched (1 SV, 11 WP, 18 HBP, 11 HR) … his top games during the 2006 season included keeping the Irish in the game versus then-#15 Texas A&M, in San Antonio (5.1 IP, R, 4 H, 3 BB, 4 Ks; no-decision as ND rallied for 5-4 win) … delivered 6-1 win in his 2006 home debut, logging career-high 8.0 innings and totaling career-best 8 Ks as Irish set Eck Stadium attendance record of 3,028 (R, 8 H, BB) … had solid outing to help beat St. John’s in 9-2 opener of showdown series (7 IP, 2 R, 11 H, 3 BB, 5 Ks) … improved to 6-1 the next week with 11-5 win over rival Rutgers (7.1 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 6 Ks) … closed regular season with his strongest outing of the season, notching 3-1 road win over Villanova in duel with fellow top prospect Kevin Mulvey (8.1 IP, R, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 Ks) … totaled 16 Ks and just 3 walks over his final 3 GP of the 2006 season … won key winners-bracket game at BIG EAST Tournament vs. West Virginia (12-4), with Stan Posluszny’s 3-run blast accounting for most of WVU’s runs (8 IP, 4 R, 9 H, BB, 6 Ks) … another mistake pitch yielded a game-tying, 3-run HR in the NCAA opener vs. the College of Charleston as the Cougars forged a 4-4 tie in the 7th and ultimately won, 5-4 in 16 innings (8 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks).

Jeff Samardzija's Notre Dame Career Stats

2004.... 2.95 5-3 20 6 0 0/2 1 64.0 50 25 21 17 42 2 1 5 0 .209 3 3 0 3
2005.... 3.89 8-1 15 10 1 0/1 0 78.2 85 39 34 30 56 10 3 3 360 .272 3 10 1 6
2006.... 4.33 8-2 15 15 0 0/0 0 97.2 101 51 47 37 61 24 2 3 426 .272 5 5 3 10
TOTAL... 3.82 21-6 50 31 1 0/3 1 240.1 236 115 102 84 159 36 6 11 786 .256 11 18 4 19

The season-long spotlight and fan attention surrounding Jeff Samardzija included this popular two-sport promotional poster (photo and copyright held by Mike Bennett/Lighthouse Imaging).