June 5, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame junior righthander Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) has been selected by the Minnesota Twins with the 31st pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, becoming the third-highest drafted player in the history of Notre Dame baseball.
The Twins held the first of 10 “sandwich” picks, which are positioned between the first and second rounds and serve as compensation for players lost to free agency. Minnesota received the 31st pick in the draft as compensation for losing free-agent relief pitcher Mike Trombley to the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason.
Just two Notre Dame baseball players have been selected higher in the draft-both with the 17th pick-since the process began in the 1965 season. Catcher Ken Plesha was a first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in ’65 while righthander Brad Lidge was selected by the Houston Astros in the first round of the ’98 draft.
Heilman-the 17th pitcher and eighth college pitcher selected-is the 49th different Notre Dame player to be selected in the Major League Draft, the eighth to be chosen in the first five rounds and the 17th selected in the top 10 rounds. At least one Irish player has been selected in the first 10 rounds during each of the past seven Major League drafts (since ’94), including one third-round pick and two fourth-round selections.
Heilman may sign with the Twins up until the point that he re-enrolls at Notre Dame, meaning that he essentially has the entire summer to reach a decision as to the future of his playing career.
The 30 players selected in the first round included mostly high school players (17, eight of them pitchers), plus two junior college players (one pitcher) and 11 four-year college players (seven pitchers).
The Notre Dame baseball program has limited draft experience with the Twins. Righthander Robert Bentley was a 30th-round pick of the Twins in 1966 but returned to Notre Dame for his senior season. Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann-who played sparingly with the Irish baseball team-was a 39th-round selection of the Twins in 1971, as a shortstop prospect. First baseman Dan Leatherman signed with the Twins as a free agent in 1998 and currently is playing with the high-A Fort Myers Miracle.
One of Leatherman’s current teammates on the Miracle is former Notre Dame signee Michael Restovich, a second-round selection by the Twins in 1997 who opted to sign with Minnesota near the end of the summer of ’97.
A comprehensive career biography of Heilman-in addition to a feature story-are available on the ND website at www.und.com.
QUOTES FOLLOWING FIRST DAY OF 2000 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DRAFT
(Notre Dame junior RHP Aaron Heilman selected with 31st pick by Minnesota Twins, June 5, 2000)
AARON HEILMAN: “I’m pretty excited right now and am just letting everything sink in. It’s been a pretty exciting day so far. … I talked with (Minnesota’s) regional scouts earlier today, after they had picked me. … (Coming back to Notre Dame) always enters your mind. We made a good run for it at the end and had a tremendous season all the way through before losing a heartbreaker there at the end, in a game that everyone felt we could have and should have won. That always leaves a little bit of bad taste in your mouth. But it’s been a tremendous experience and a great year so far. It’s been nice to be able to look back on it and be proud of it. … I basically ‘shut it down’ for about a week but this week have started to get back into it, playing catch and probably will be throwing some bullpens by the end of the week. It’s always an ongoing process. You can’t get away from it for too long. … It’s still kind of sinking in but everything that has happened with me so far is more than I could ask for. My career here at Notre Dame has been tremendous and the coaches have helped me more than I can say. But, definitely, this is a dream come true.”
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: “I have mixed emotions, because there is no shame in being the 31st player drafted in the entire country … but I thought that Aaron would have been drafted much higher than that. I feel that a lot of Major League clubs made a major mistake, because Aaron will make a great big-league pitcher and was worthy of being a first-round draft choice. … We are very proud of the way that Aaron has developed during his three years at Notre Dame, going from a 54th-round draft pick out of high school into the 31st overall pick. And he did it the right way-through hard work and dedication-and those are things that will help make him a great Major League pitcher. … We felt like Notre Dame baseball already was on the map but Aaron helped elevate the program to another level. As a three-time All-American, member of the USA national team and a high draft choice, he brought a lot of national attention to our program. Yet through it all, he maintained a lot of humility and was focused on the team goals. He has been a great leader by example during his career at Notre Dame and we all know that more great things lie ahead in his future.”
ND PITCHING COACH AND RECRUITING COORDINATOR BRIAN O’CONNOR: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Aaron gets to the big leagues faster than most of the 30 players that were selected before him, because he has great ‘stuff’ and he simply knows how to win. He also knows how to throw strikes, nobody will have to teach him that. … I’m still very happy for Aaron and he deserves all the success and accolades that come his way. I would have thought that he’d have been selected higher, but he should be able to move quickly in the Minnesota organization. … When Aaron perfects his second pitch, he’ll be a quality big-league pitcher. You also can’t teach a kid to throw the fastball he throws, one that has such great movement and location. He’s got so many of the tools to be playing this game on a high level for many years to come.”
1. Florida Marlins – Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (Eastlake HS, Bonita, CA)
2. Minnesota Twins – Adam Johnson, RHP (Cal State Fullerton)
3. Chicago Cubs – Luis Montanez, SS (Miami Coral Park HS, Miami, FL)
4. Kansas City Royals – Michael Stodolka, LHP (Centennial HS, Corona, CA)
5. Montreal Expos – Justin Wayne, RHP (Stanford University)
6. Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Rocco Baldelli, CF (Bishop Hendricksen School, Cumberland, RI)
7. Colorado Rockies – Matthew Harrington, RHP (Palmdale HS, Palmdale, CA)
8. Detroit Tigers – Matthew Wheatland, RHP (Rancho Bernardo HS, Poway, CA)
9. San Diego Padres – Mark Phillips, LHP (Hanover HS, Hanover, PA)
10. Anaheim Angels – Joseph Torres, LHP (Gateway HS, Kissimmee, FL)
11. Milwaukee Brewers – David Krynzel, CF (Green Valley HS, Henderson NV)
12. Chicago White Sox – Joseph Borchard, RF (Stanford University)
13. St. Louis Cardinals – Shaun Boyd, 2B (Vista HS, Pala, CA)
14. Baltimore Orioles – Beau Hale, RHP (University of Texas)
15. Philadelphia Phillies – Chase Utley, 2B (University of California)
16. New York Mets – William Traber, LHP (Loyola Marymount)
17. Los Angeles Dodgers – Benjamin Diggins, RHP (University of Arizona)
18. Toronto Blue Jays – Miguel Negron, CF (Manuela Toro HS, Caguas, PR)
19. Pittsburgh Pirates – Sean Burnett, LHP (Wellington Community HS, Wellington, FL)
20. Anaheim Angels – Chris Bootcheck, RHP (Auburn University)
21. San Francisco Giants – John Bonser, RHP (Gibbs HS, Pinellas Park, FL)
22. Boston Red Sox – Phillip Dumatrait, LHP (Bakersfield, CA, Junior College)
23. David Espinosa, SS (Gulliver Prep, Miami, FL)
24. St. Louis Cardinals – Blake Williams, RHP (Southwest Texas State)
25. Texas Rangers – Scott Heard, C (Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego, CA)
26. Cleveland Indians – Corey Smith, SS (Piscataway HS, Piscataway, NJ)
27. Houston Astros – Robert Stiehl, C (El Camino, CA, Junior College)
28. New York Yankees – David Parrish, C (University of Michigan)
29. Atlanta Braves – Adam Wainwright, RHP (Glynn Academy, St. Simons, GA)
30. Atlanta Braves – Scott Thorman, 3B (Preston HS, Cambridge, CT)
31. Minnesota Twins – Aaron Heilman, RHP (University of Notre Dame)
32. Baltimore Orioles – Nelson Johnson, 3B (Newport HS, Belleview WA)
33. Toronto Blue Jays – Dustin McGowan, RHP (Long County HS, Ludowici, GA)
34. Cincinnati Reds – Dustin Moseley, RHP (Arkansas HS, Texarkana, TX)
35. Texas Rangers – Tyrell Godwin, CF (University of North Carolina)
36. New York Mets – Bob Keppel, RHP (Desmet Jesuit HS, Chesterfield, MO)
37. Cleveland Indians – Derek Thompson, LHP (Land O’Lakes HS, Land O’Lakes, FL)
38. Atlanta Braves – Kelly Johnson, SS (Westwood HS, Austin, TX)
39. Texas Rangers – Chad Hawkins, RHP (Baylor University)
40. Atlanta Braves – Aaron Herr, SS (Hempfield HS, Lancaster, PA)