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Summer Baseball Diaries Roll Into August As Craig Cooper Reports On His Stellar All-Around Experience With Hays Larks

Aug. 4, 2003

The Summer Baseball Diaries have rolled into August as the sixth and second-to-last entry hsa arrived, with yet another entry from a rising sophomore as outfielder Craig Cooper reports from Hays, Kansas. Cooper has turned in an impressive all-around showing in the Jayhawk League and is the latest in a long line of Notre Dame players who have spent recent summers with the Hays Larks.

The Larks typically are in the running to win the National Baseball Congress summer-ending tournament (a national title of sorts, with a wide assortment of 64 teams converging in Wichita for a marathon stretch of games), with Andrew Bushey, Drew Duff and Matt Buchmeier playing on the 2000 NBC runner-up squad while J.P. Gagne and Joe Thaman were members of the 2001 runner-up team (Javi Sanchez, Ryan Kalita and Tyler Jones also played in Hays last summer, when the Larks were upset at the NBC tournament).

Cooper currently leads the Larks in runs scored (38), stolen bases (21-of-24) and triples (5) while ranking second on the team in home runs (5), RBI (37) and slugging pct. (.546). He has played mostly left field and started the summer hitting down in the batting order before becoming entrenched as the team’s No. 2 and 3-hole hitter. His .342 batting average (third-best on team; 52-for-152) is impressive in any wooden-bat league and his summer stats also include six doubles, 17 walks, 34 Ks, a .411 on-base pct. and four errors (the Larks as a group own a .303 team batting avg.).

Notre Dame Baseball 2003 Summer Diary Schedule (dates are approximate)

July 12 – Javi Sanchez (Madison Mallards; Northwoods League)

July 18 – Tom Thornton (Newport Gulls; Northeast League)

July 26 – Matt Macri (Brewster Whitecaps; Cape Cod League)

July 30 – Matt Edwards (Waynesboro Generals; Shenandoah League)

Aug. 1 – Greg Lopez (Delaware Cows; Great Lakes League)

Aug. 4 – Craig Cooper (Hays Larks; Jayhawk League)

Aug. 10 – Matt Bransfield (Colorado Sox; Rocky Mountain League

ND Baseball 2003 Summer Diaries

(Entry #6, Craig Cooper; Aug. 4)

Hello Irish Fans, this is Craig Cooper checking in from Hays, Kansas. I am out here playing in the Jayhawk League as a part of the Hays Larks. I have enjoyed a great summer in Hays and I am loving the new experience.

I came out here in mid-June with classmate Cody Rizzo. Unfortunately, after playing several games, Cody suffered an injury to his foot. He did everything possible to try and rest his foot and play again. In the end, he needed more rest than he could get out here, and he went home to his native Temecula, Calif., for the remainder of the summer.

This summer I have stayed with the Flax family. My host parents, Ron and Rhonda, have been everything I could ask for. They come out to support the Larks at the games and have made my time here something to remember.

The Flax family has three children: Luke, Nathan, and Kelsey. Luke has introduced me to the world of frisbee golf, a game that is exactly like golf except that you play with frisbees instead of clubs and balls. Nathan has found my weaknesses in video games and has not been afraid to exploit them. It is all fun until he starts rubbing it in afterwards. Kelsey is the sparkplug of the bunch. She usually gets all her energy at around midnight, which is always interesting to see when everyone else is worn out from a long day.

The Flax’s have been big supporters of Notre Dame players playing in Hays. In the past, they have hosted Pat Davis, Jeff Felker and Ryan Kalita. They frequently travel to see ND play when they come to the area. In the past few years, they have driven to Omaha and San Antonio to watch the Irish play.

Hays is truly a baseball town. Many of its residents come out to fill up Larks Park every night. During our games, you can guarantee that the local kids will be playing their own little game out in foul territory. There is always a group of kids in the dugout during the games, and after the game ends they go out and take ground balls and fly balls that the players hit to them.

100-degree heat and long bus trips are not necessarily your ideal conditions for a summer of playing baseball, but the bonds our team has made have made life here more tolerable. Our team in Hays has been blessed with a great group of guys. We play together well on the field and mesh together off the field just as well.

I have had the opportunity to meet players from schools around the country and hear about their experiences. In Hays, I have also had the opportunity to play with Aaron Batlle, Tyler Jones’ best friend from back home. Aaron continuously has reminded me that “Everything is bigger and better in Texas.”

The Larks have a unique core of players that have been in Hays for three-straight years. These rising seniors have made my adjustment to living in Hays much easier. From the days at pool and the lake, to T-Bone’s, to the HPC, they showed us all the essentials for living in Hays.

The Larks have finished our regular season with an overall record of 39-10. We finished with a 22-6 record in the Jayhawk League, clinching the Larks third straight Jayhawk League title. Last year, the Larks became the first team in the history of the Jayhawk League to repeat as champions, making this year’s three-peat even more impressive.

Our team has just returned from the National Baseball Congress (NBC) Midwest Regional Tournament, in which we took second place behind our league rivals the El Dorado Broncos. This tournament, along with the Jayhawk League title, has enabled us to enter into the 64-team field for the upcoming NBC World Series. In the NBC World Series, we will compete against college summer teams from across the country and even international teams, such as the Taiwanese National Team, in an effort to be crowned national champions.

I want to congratulate coach O’Connor on has recent move in becoming the head coach at the University of Virginia. I have learned a lot from playing under you and want to wish you good luck in your new venture. I also would like to congratulate coach Rooney on his new position on the Notre Dame staff.

I hope all my teammates are having as good a time as I am and are playing well this summer. I really am looking forward to getting back and seeing you guys and playing this fall.


Craig Cooper