July 23, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame baseball signee Patrick O’Brien (Bath, Ohio) has elected to pass up his college eligibility, as the Pittsburgh Pirates formally announced on Wednesday that the promising righthanded pitcher has signed with the major league club.
O’Brien-who was one of five high school players to sign with Notre Dame in the fall of 1998-turned in a dominating 1999 season with Walsh Jesuit High School but slipped to the 39th round of the Major League draft (June 2), when the Pirates took a chance and selected O’Brien with their pick.
Had he elected to attend Notre Dame, O’Brien would have been a top contender to help fill the void left by two departed starting pitchers-senior righthander Alex Shilliday and junior lefty Tim Kalita, who signed as a seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.
” After working so hard to sign a talented recruiting class, it’s always tough to lose a player to the professional draft and the lure of big money. This process is getting out of hand and is damaging college baseball throughout the nation, but it also is a state of the times, ” said sixth-year Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri, who has lost five recruits and seven other draft-eligible players to professional baseball before they completed their eligibility at Notre Dame.
“Pat O’Brien is a much better pitcher than his 39th-round draft status might indicate, as most teams were hesitant to draft him because he already had signed with Notre Dame,” added Mainieri, whose squad is set to return seven of nine starting position players and 11 pitchers from a 1999 team that went 43-18 and advanced to the NCAA tournament. “We still feel very confident with the pitchers who are remaining for the 2000 season and have an excellent groups of returning position players-in addition to some talented newcomers-who will help lead the team in the field and at the plate.”
The Notre Dame baseball program has lost four other signees to pro baseball during the last five years: righthander Ryan Dempster (1995, 2nd round, Texas Rangers, traded to the Florida Marlins), first baseman A.J. Zapp (1996, 1st round, Atlanta Braves), catcher Camron Hahn (1997, 2nd round, Houston Astros) and outfielder Michael Restovich (1997, 2nd round, Minnesota Twins).
In addition to Kalita, six other Notre Dame players have bypassed remaining eligibility with the Irish after being selected in the Major League amateur draft: outfielder Ryan Topham (1995, 4th round, Chicago White Sox), righthander Christian Parker (1996, 4th round, Montreal Expos), centerfielder Scott Sollmann (1996, 7th round, Detroit Tigers), righthander Brad Lidge (1998, 1st round, Houston Astros), outfielder Allen Greene (1998, 10th round, New York Yankees) and infielder Brant Ust (1999, 6th round, Detroit Tigers). All of the above players left after their junior year, with the exception of Parker (who met the minimum college draft age limit of 21 following his sophomore season).
O’Brien-known for his competitiveness and a 90-plus mph fastball-was named to USA Today’s annual list of honorable mention All-Americans and was the Division II Ohio state player of the year, after helping Walsh Jesuit win the state title. He turned in a complete-game, four-hitter in the state semi-final victory over potent Hamilton Badin while compiling a 27-6 career record, with his1999 stats including an 11-1 record, a 2.58 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 76 innings.