June 4, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame junior catcher Jeff Wagner (Louisville, Ky.) has been selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 50th round of the major league baseball draft, becoming the third Irish baseball player selected in the 1998 draft.
The Houston Astros drafted Notre Dame junior righthander Brad Lidge with the 17th pick of the first round while junior centerfielder Allen Greene was a ninth-round selection of the New York Yankees.
Lidge, Greene and Wagner each have the option of signing with their respective teams or returning for their senior season at Notre Dame.
One other player from Notre Dame’s 1998 team already has begun his professional career. Shortstop J.J. Brock signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was assigned to the local A South Bend Silverhawks. Because he was a fifth-year senior, Brock was able to sign as a free agent when Notre Dame’s season ended. Brock reported to the Silver Hawks on May 25 and has been the team’s starting shortstop over the past 11 days.
Wagner is Notre Dame’s career home run leader, with 41, including 17 as a sophomore and 14 this past season. His other 1998 statistics included a .330 batting average, 49 RBI, 44 runs scored, 15 doubles, two triples, 29 walks and 28 strikeouts. He ranks sixth in Irish history with 46 career doubles and 10th with 163 career RBI.
Wagner is the third Notre Dame player to be drafted by the Blue Jays, following junior shortstop Pat Pesavento (1988, 11th round) and senior righthander David Sinnes (1993, 19th round). Two eventual Irish players have been drafted by Toronto out of high school: righthander Larry Mohs (1993, 11th round) and Greene (1995, 52nd round).
Greene is the second Notre Dame player selected by the Yankees, following in the footsteps of junior outfielder Mike Amrhein (1996, 99th round), who returned for his senior season and became a 10th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs. Two current Irish players–sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (1996, 11th round) and freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (1997, 54th round)–were drafted by the Yankees out of high school.
A total of 21 players from the BIG EAST Conference were selected in the 1998 draft, including four each from Connecticut and West Virginia and three each from Notre Dame, St. John’s and Rutgers (a full list is available on the BIG EAST website, at www.bigeast.org). Lidge was the first BIG EAST player selected while Greene was the fifth, behind St. John’s lefthander Ron Marietta (4th round, Cleveland), UConn lefthander Josh Santos (4th round, Sam Francisco) and St. John’s righthander Greg Peterson (5th round, Detroit).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: “We obviously are very proud to have three players selected in this year’s draft. It’s always a bittersweet feeling, because you want the players to do what’s in their best interest and sometimes that means that they leave your program a year early. Whatever their decision, all three players fully intend on completing their studies and graduating from Notre Dame.”