June 4, 2003
Notre Dame junior second baseman Steve Sollmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) became the third Irish baseball player to be drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the past two seasons, with the A’s selecting Sollmann in the 32nd round as the two-day Major League Baseball draft concluded Wednesday with 30 more rounds of picks.
The Notre Dame baseball program never had produced brothers who had been selected in the MLB draft but it now has happened twice in as many days, as Sollmann follows in the footsteps of his brother Scott, a centerfielder with the Irish from 1994-96 who was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 7th round of the 1996 draft. Three years later, the Tigers used their pick in that same round to select ND lefthanded pitcher Tim Kalita, whose brother Ryan was picked by the Chicago Cubs in Tuesday’s first day of selections (17th round).
Sollmann’s selection marks the sixth straight season that Notre Dame has produced three-plus draft picks, with senior righthanded pitchers J.P. Gagne (14th round, Colorado Rockies) and Kalita selected during Tuesday’s first 20 rounds.
The A’s also selected former ND outfielders Steve Stanley (2nd round) and Brian Stavisky (6th rd) in the 2002 draft, with former Irish lefthander Chris Michalak selected by Oakland in the 15th round of the 1992 draft (he returned for his senior season).
Oakland retains rights to Sollmann until he attends his first class at Notre Dame next fall. The Cincinnati Reds also elected to draft Notre Dame senior-to-be quarterback Carlyle Holiday in the 44th round of the draft (he was a four-sport star at Roosevelt High School in Shreveport, La.), a move that is not unprecedented in ND football history as former QB Tony Rice was a 50th-round pick of the California Angels after his senior year in 1989-90 (Holiday, like Rice, never has played baseball with the Irish).
Sollmann recently became the sixth ND player ever to receive three-plus all-BIG EAST Conference honors (first team in ’01, second team in ’02 and ’03) and also was named a second team Academic All-American, with a 3.30 cumulative GPA as a marketing major.
He ranks 15th in the nation with 0.62 stolen bases per game (38 total, second among BIG EAST players) while also finishing as the BIG EAST overall leader in hits (98; 4th-most in ND history), runs scored (67) and total bases (136), pus second in triples (5) and seventh in batting average (.384; 27th in ND history). He also has excelled in NCAA Tournament play, batting .487 (38-for-78) in 18 career NCAA games, including .697 (23-for-33) in ND’s last two NCAA Regional tournaments (10-for-17 at last week’s Fullerton Regional).
Sollmann’s 255 career hits already are the eighth-most ever in the ND record book and third-most by an Irish junior (behind Steve Stanley’s 266 and Dan Peltier’s 257) while his .370 career batting average ranks fifth, just behind his brother’s .372 (plus Peltier’s .406, the .405 posted by Eric Danapilis and Stanley’s .384). Sollmann also ranks fifth in ND history with 501 fielding assists, sixth with 67 stolen bases and 11th in both runs scored (172) and triples (11).
Per NCAA regulations, schools are not allowed to release updated information on recent letter-of-intent signees after the initial signing release, prior to those players’ arrival on campus to begin their college careers (for a list of ND’s 2002 fall signees, see www.und.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/111602aaa.html). Recent ND signees have fallen in the draft due to their strong commitments to attend Notre Dame, most notably current sophomore pitchers Grant Johnson (went undrafted despite being projected as a 2nd-rounder) and Chris Niesel (projected to be picked from 3rd-10th rounds, fell to 46th by the Chicago Cubs) and their classmate, shortstop Matt Macri (projected 1st rounder, picked in 17th).
MORE SOLLMANN NOTES
In addition to his stats among the BIG EAST leaders, Sollmann – who closed the season on a 13-game hitting streak – also finished second on the 2003 Irish team in doubles (16), slugging pct. (.533), on-base pct. (.438) and walks (25), and third in home runs (4) and RBI (40, mostly from the leadoff spot). His other 2003 stats included one time hit-by-pitch, more walks (25) than strikeouts (23), two sacrifice flies, four sac. bunts and just eight errors in 310 fielding chances (.974 fielding pct.) as a key member of the defensive unit that set the ND record for season fielding pct. (.970; with Sollmann having a hand in 41 of the team’s 57 double plays).
Situation ally, Sollmann posted a team-best .550 leadoff on-base pct. and ranked second on the team in batting with runners in scoring position (.373) while owning the team’s fourth-best 2-out batting average (.254, 13 RBI with 2 outs). He grounded into just two double plays, advanced baserunners 58% of the time (third-best on team) and posted nearly identical batting averages vs. lefthanded (.388) and righthanded (.383) pitchers.
Sollmann also recently became a rare junior-year recipient of ND’s Francis Patrick O’Connor Award (recognizing student-athletes who most embody “team spirit, inspiration, courage,” etc.) and became the first player ever named BIG EAST player of the week three times in the same season (also tying the BIG EAST career mark).