June 24, 2004
The Cleveland Indians formally have announced the signing of former Notre Dame junior righthander pitcher Chris Niesel (Plantation, Fla.), Cleveland’s 9th-round selection in the 2004 Major League draft. Niesel has reported to the single-A Mahoning Valley Scarppers – based in Niles, Ohio, and a member of the New York-Penn League – but he had yet to make his professional debut, as of June 23.
Two recently-graduated Notre Dame seniors – second baseman Steve Sollmann and catcher Javi Sanchez – have begun their professional baseball careers as members of single-A teams with their respective organizations.
Sollmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) is playing with the Helena (Mont.) Brewers of the Pioneer League and was batting .313 (5-for-16) after making five starts at second base, with 4 runs scored, 5 RBI, 3 strikeouts, 2-of-2 stolen bases, a sacrifice bunt and one time hit-by-pitch (he was a 10th-round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers in the ’04 draft).
Sanchez (Miami, Fla.) is starting his pro career in a different part of the country as a member of the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins of the Appalachian League. He had made two starts behind the plate, batting 2-for-6 with an RBI, run scored, triple and walk. The 2004 Notre Dame team MVP was a 14th-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in the ’04 draft.
One other member of the 2004 Irish squad – third baseman Matt Macri – is playing in Pasco, Wash., with the single-A Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League. Macri, a 5th-round selection of the Colorado Rockies, had opened his pro career by batting .176 (3-for-17) while starting five games at third base (RBI, 2 R, 2B, HBP, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 2-3 SB).
Macri joined a Dust Devils team that features a roster dominated by former college players. The official websites for Sollmann, Sanchez and Niesel’s new teams do not yet include updated and detailed rosters for 2004 but Sollmann is one of 10 players on the Helena roster who are fresh off playing for their respective college teams, with the others including pitchers Josh Baker (Rice), Jared Theodorakos (Baylor), Robert Hinton (Manatee CC), Josh Wahpepah (Cowley CC) and Justin Wilson (Gilbert CC), catcher Clay Blevins (Cowley CC), fellow infielders Tony Festa (UC Irvine) and Grant Richardson (Washington State), and outfielder Hasan Rasheed (Lake City CC).
See the above PDF link for June 24th updated bios on Notre Dame’s five 2004 draftees.
Look for an update later in the summer on all former Notre Dame players currently in various levels of professional baseball.