June 7, 2004
The Notre Dame baseball program experienced a record-setting first day in the 2004 Major League Baseball draft, as an unprecedented five Irish players – junior RHP Grant Johnson (2nd round, Chicago Cubs), junior 3B Matt Marci (5th rd, Colorado Rockies), junior RHP Chris Niesel (9th rd, Cleveland Indians), senior 2B Steve Sollmann (10th rd, Milwaukee Brewers) and senior C Javi Sanchez (14th rd, Minnesota Twins) – were selected in the first 14 rounds. Johnson – who still has two years of eligibility remaining, if he elects not to sign with his hometown Cubs – and Macri are the highest drafted teammates in ND baseball history while no previous Irish squad had produced more than two selections in the first 10 rounds. Sollmann recently made an inspiring return from injury before capping a storied career that included 302 hits – and he now rates as the sixth-highest drafted senior in the history of ND baseball. Johnson is the fifth Notre Dame player to be selected in the first two rounds of the MLB draft and the fourth in the last seven seasons (along with pitchers Brad Lidge and Aaron Heilman and centerfielder Steve Stanley).
Sanchez, selected with the 421st overall pick, became Notre Dame’s fifth pick of the day and only four teams – the last two NCAA runner-ups (South Carolina and Stanford, with seven each) and the last two NCAA champions (Texas and Rice, with six each) – had produced more draft picks at that point in the draft (late 14th round) than Notre Dame’s five.
The quality of college pitching during the 2004 season was evident in today’s selections, as Johnson was the 25th college pitcher selected among the first 66 picks (which included just 15 high school pitchers). Macri was the sixth third baseman among the first 140 picks.
Check back to und.com throughout Monday and Tuesday (when the 50-round draft likely will conclude) for updated bio. capsules on each Notre Dame draftee, in addition to quotes from the players and Irish coaches – and several other draft bonuses such as lists of draftees from the BIG EAST teams and other 2004 opponents.
(Note that, per NCAA regulations, schools are not permitted to release updated information on any letter-of-intent signee. In accordance with that policy, publicity regarding any Notre Dame signees who are selected in the 2004 MLB draft will be conducted in the fall when those players officially report to campus).