June 6, 2002
Notre Dame vs. Florida State (NCAA Super Regional)
June 6, 2002
Head Coach, Notre Dame
“The understatement of the year is the Fighting Irish are happy to be here in Tallahassee to play in the Super Regional. We are not happy that we have to play Florida State, quite frankly, but we are happy to be still playing. Last weekend, was a weekend that will forever live infamy in the baseball program because it was the first time we were able to win a regional tournament and advance to this stage of the national tournament.
“Obviously we’d be happy to be anywhere, but from a personal standpoint I’m extremely pleased that we were able to come to Tallahassee. I grew up as a Florida boy down in Miami at Columbus High School. I always dreamt of going to Florida State to play here. During the Fall of 1976 when I was at Miami-Dade Community College we played in a tournament here in the fall. I was praying that I would play well enough that Woody Woodward would think enough of me to encourage me to come to Florida State. I went out there and played as bad as I could have possibly have played, so he never gave me a second look. That dream went by the waysides, but my best friends in high school came here. I have always had a feeling for Florida State because my best friends went to school here.
“This is the first time I have been back here in over 20 years and I’m really excited about being here. I hope we can go out and make our university proud and play against a great team.
“I have the ultimate respect for this baseball program. Mike Martin is one of the great coaches of all time. To be in this tradition room is just amazing. To see all the players that have gone through this program and the great coaches that you have had it’s just a real honor for Notre Dame to be here at Florida State.
“We are going to go with Grant Johnson, a freshman right-hander in the first game. He’s probably about 6-5, 6-6 and about 200 pounds. It’s a big game for the freshman to get the ball, that’s for sure. We have been going with freshman pitchers all year. During our opening weekend of the conference we started three freshmen in the three game series. Grant is a kid who has gotten better and better as the year has gone on. He’s had some moments of brilliance and he’s also had moments of inconsistency. Last weekend against South Alabama he really put it all together. He threw a lot of strikes and competed really hard.
“It is warm, there is no question about it. But the one thing you get used to doing, if you are at Notre Dame, is to deal with less than perfect conditions. We have played in snow, when it was cold, we have played in the rain, we’ve played in the heat it was very warm last weekend in South Bend, Ind. I don’t think it’s (the weather) going to be a problem. We are going to be so excited about playing one game a day. I think playing in the evening will help, too.
“We are going to try to throw the ball over the plate and hope our stuff is good enough to get them out. We have the ultimate respect for Tony (Richie) and Stephen (Drew). But if you go out there on the field in awe of other people than you haven’t got a chance. I don’t think any of our kids are going to go out there and be in awe of anybody. We are going to go out there with a great deal of respect for people. If they hit the ball hopefully somebody on our team will catch it for us.
“We are going to go out a try to play our game the best we know how to play. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not then we will tip our hats to the Seminoles.”
Head Coach, Florida State
“Paul Mainieri is a real credit to college baseball. His dad was a coach at Dade North for many, many years and we used to play them back in the days when you could play Fall baseball. I go back with Paul to when he was in high school. He is such a credit to our game and he has really done a tremendous job at Notre Dame. He is really to be commended. I don’t see how people can teach indoors. I don’t know how they can go over tag plays and run-downs indoors. I have always been amazed at people who get it done in cold weather climates. We have a hard enough time getting it done in 88-degree weather.
“I talked to the South Alabama head coach, and he said it really wasn’t that close (a 25-1 Notre Dame win in the regional last week). I was very impressed with the people I have talked to about the Notre Dame baseball program. They are obviously a team that has been in the top 20 heck they were ranked No. 1 last year if I’m not mistaken this is an established baseball program. This is a team that you don’t expect to be where they are. They have earned respect and they deserve to be in a super regional.
“They only thing I have seen on television is a couple of home runs that they hit and that’s not always encouraging. You would hope somebody would make an out when you are trying to learn something about them. I really have not seen them other than that. I have been talking to some people and they have been really raving about how Notre Dame is an aggressive club and how they really take the game to you.
“I think the key to our winning streak, as much as anything, has been outstanding leadership. I think when you are able to win like this you have got to have real good, solid people on the team. There are going to be time when you go out in the field that a player might say, ‘the team doesn’t really need for me to do anything today.’ He might slack off and another guy might slack off and the pitcher gets mad because somebody makes a mistake. The leadership of this club did not allow any of that to happen. That’s what has been the key to the success of our team. Guys like Ryan Barthelemy, Blair Varnes and Mike Futrell the guys who have been in our program for four years. Getting (Stephen) Drew back didn’t hurt.
“Stephen Drew is a freshman that does not play like a freshman. He is a young man that really enjoys playing in games of this magnitude. He enjoys being involved with people like Ryan Barthelemy and Futrell who have had the opportunity to experience the College World Series. He has really proven that the game is supposed to be played that way.”