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Notre Dame Baseball's Aaron Heilman Returns For Senior Season

Aug. 22, 2000


Heilman opening remarks
“As we all know, the reason we are here is my decision not to partake in my professional career at this time. I’d just like to say that it’s been a long summer and I’ve given it a lot of thought and talked it over with my family. It came to a decision that coming back to school was going to be the best decision for me and that was going to give me the best opportunity. It was a very difficult decision but I am happy to be back here. It’s great to be back at campus and I’m really looking forward to the (2001) season.”

Opening remarks from Notre Dame head baseball coach Paul Mainieri “This decision-making process for Aaron and his family is probably one of the more difficult things they will go through in their life but I think it needs to be emphasized that this was not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Aaron. ? This was a decision that was made entirely by Aaron, in consultation with his family. He has asked (Irish pitching coach) Brian (O’Connor) and I for advise throughout the course of the summer, which we provided for him. But in no way did we try to influence his decision one way or the other. Now that he is back at school, obviously we are ecstatic about that and are really looking forward to what the 2001 season will bring with him leading the way.”

Aaron, describe how the last few days went.
“There are several issues that were at hand and we didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on those. It kind of got to the point where we agreed to disagree on the topics and that’s where we left it. ? Obviously, one of the major factors is the signing bonus and that did have a part in it but that certainly was not the only issue.”

How did you feel about dropping in the draft?
“The first day or so afterwards I was disappointed that I did not get drafted higher but we moved on from that and accepted the fact that was where I was and tried to go through the negotiations and get things done.”

What did you learn from this whole experience?
“It was definitely evident that this was a business deal and we tried to look at it like that and in the same respect we felt that the best decision was to come back here.”

“We had our last conversation last night and we had left it at that. They had made their final offer and I had said that I was going to attend school.”

How did you sleep last night?
“I slept pretty good. My family and I had talked about this decision all summer long and we are very comfortable with the decision I made and I’m just excited to be back here and really look forward to the season and getting things going.”

“It hit home a little bit when I was starting to walk into class. But there are definitely no regrets or no second thoughts.”

What are your goals now?
“I don’t think the goal is to prove anything or prove anyone wrong. I’m really just looking at the season as having the opportunity to have another great season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and all the great times we had. We have a tremendous team coming back and my goal is just to do the best job I can for my team and hopefully improve on my pitching ability. If that leads me to get drafted higher next year then so be it but I’m not looking for that right now. I’m just looking to improve and help my team out.”

How can you improve?
“There are several aspects. Possible adding another pitch and still fine-tuning my slider and my changeup. We haven’t really decided on what that (new) pitch will be. I was talking with coach O’Connor and coach Mainieri and we will make that decision down the road here in fall ball and we can try some things out and work on that.”

Any worry about injuries?
“No. I’ve been fortunate to play all three years here and never have any arm problems or any injuries so I’m trying to not look at negative things here but just look forward to the season and have some fun and have a great season.”

Coach Mainieri, what are your thoughts about Aaron?
“I think it has been pretty well-documented how I feel about this guy long before this decision was made. I just love this guy to death. I only want what’s best for him and that’s all I’ve ever wanted and he knows that. If he had signed following last year, I wouldhave been the first one in line to give him a hug and send him on his way. The fact that he decided to come back to Notre Dame I think speaks volumes about what is important in his life. He wants that degree from Notre Dame and he wants to help Notre Dame. Without speaking for him, he has said many times how much he loves Notre Dame. And he didn’t want to give away that last year cheaply. I think it means a lot to him, his teammates mean a lot to him and his coaches mean a lot to him and he obviously means a lot to us. When I thought about this decision he had, the one thing that kept coming to my mind was that really there was no wrong decision. There wasn’t a right and a wrong decision. I see it as two right decisions. On one hand, he can start his professional career. On the other hand, he can finish up his degree before he goes into professional baseball. I think he’s going to be better a year from now and have a better chance to be successful when he goes into professional baseball. I was going to support him no matter what he did.”

Your job definitely got a little easier.
“The expectations got a little higher, too, didn’t they? Coaching this guy-and Brian would say the same thing-has been one of the great joys of my coaching career and obviously with him being back and leading our pitching staff, I think it makes us that much better of a ballclub. We’ve evolved >from a very young team to a veteran team now. We have a pretty strong, veteran nucleus. And you add an Aaron Heilman back to lead this pitching staff, I think we’re going to be a team to be reckoned with. I feel very confident going into the season.”

Aaron, talk about how the team’s success in the NCAA Tournament last season affected you, in terms of wanting to go to Omaha.
“Just like playing in the major leagues, one of my dreams always has been to get to the College World Series. Definitely., the experiences that I have had, the tremendous season that we had last year and the great team that we’ve got coming back certainly had some effect on my decision.”

Are you worried about not having a great year and potential money lost? “I don’t think I would have lost that much because I also would have gained another year of getting better and improving myself. Not only that but I’ll have the opportunity to finish up my degree here at Notre Dame and that’s a big thing in my life. To have that done and out of the way would be worth it. If I should lose some money, that’s not a concern.”

Why do you think you dropped in the draft?
“There’s several reasons. I had a couple subpar performances at the end and that certainly had some effect. The draft is a complicated entity. It’s like its own little world and you never quite know what’s going to happen until after it happens. I think the flexibility of all of it and not knowing how it’s all going to turn out has a lot to do with it.”

Talk about who advised you in the decision.
My family was very supportive of me and my decision and they were always there to help me out. All along, it was my decision to make and I felt that nobody I went to for advice pushed me one way or the other. They always wanted the best for me and gave me good sound advice but in the same respect let me make the decision.

Have you ever had a first day of school like this?
“No. I never really thought I’d be announcing to the world that I’m going to class.”