June 10, 2004

Four of the five Notre Dame baseball players selected in this week’s Major League draft were on hand to meet with the media for an informal press conference. A transcript of their comments from those June 7 interviews follows below:

Grant Johnson (Jr., RHP; 2nd-round selection of the Chicago Cubs)

“It’s pretty exciting. I’ve always been a fan of Chicago, so playing anywhere in the city is going to be great. I’m just glad to have the opportunity.”

“Going someplace that you are wanted is always great. It’s nice to have the connection to Notre Dame, and kind of a home feeling everywhere I go will be nice.”

“We haven’t really talked at length about the contract or anything like that. There is a chance I could be back at Notre Dame, we will just see what happens.”

“It has been an emotional rollercoaster lately. One moment you are crying because the season is over and the next you may be going to try and play professional ball. Right now I am sorting things out and we’ll se how it goes.”

“It would be unbelievable [to join the Cubs pitching staff]. I grew up watching those guys and I think by pitching with any one of them, I’ll become a great pitcher.”

“[Former ND pitching] coach [Brian] O’Connor really gave me a lot of confidence in myself. He really played a big part in my development as a good pitcher. Without him, I would not be as confident, I would not be as much of a bulldog.”

“With me coming back from shoulder surgery, [current ND pitching] coach [Terry] Rooney was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. He is very much into mechanics and getting a feel for things and that helped me work through some things after the surgery.”

“A big debt of gratitude goes to both of those pitching coaches. Without them, I’m just a thrower. With them, I’m a good pitcher.”

“There was a lot of talk among kids coming out of high school. They would say ‘don’t go here they will blow you arm up.’ But people always spoke very highly about Notre Dame and the way thy handled their players. I can echo those thoughts after my time here. It is unbelievable how I have been treated here, especially with shoulder surgery. That was a bad break for me, but the staff eased me back into it. Now it feels great and I’m as strong as ever.”

“[Athletic trainer] Mike Bean is great, he treats me like one of his kids. There is a level of respect, like a father figure. You do what he says, everything he wants you to do but at the same time you can laugh with him and have fun. Having him in the training room, keeping me upbeat all the time, calming me down when things did not feel that great, and just having his support made me more confident in myself and more confident that I would come back.”

“The best decision of my life was coming to Notre Dame and not going to the pros out of high school. This is an experience that I will cherish forever. You can’t put a price on this kind of camaraderie and the love of the game that everybody shows. Every game was a team effort and everyone gave 100% all the time. Twenty or thirty years down the road, I will look back on it as the best time of my life. “

“I believe that your work ethic on and off the field should be very similar. I’ve always worked very hard in the classroom, as well as on the field, and this semester it paid off. The academic advantages you have at Notre Dame are just tremendous. Hopefully, my baseball career will last quite a while, but if it doesn’t I have a college education. I am going to finish it up, if I don’t come back next year, I’ll finish it in the offseason.”

Matt Macri (Jr., 3B; 5th-round selection of Colorado Rockies)

“We’ll see what happens with the negotiations. When I talk to them I’ll have a better idea.”

“Leading up to the draft, I kind of had an idea where I would go. The fifth round is about where I thought I’d go and we talked about all the possible scenarios and decided that the fifth round is a good place to go. [If I do sign] I will come back to Notre Dame to finish my education.”

“It’s hard celebrating the day after losing the regional. Yesterday, we lost a game that we should have won. It is tough in the shadows of yesterday, with the disappointment of the season. But you get through it and this is something to be happy about.”

“It has always bee a dream for me to play professional ball and it is becoming a reality. I’m overjoyed right now, also a little overwhelmed, but very happy. I am excited to take the next step and continue what I’m doing.”

“I’ve always been a Braves fan but don’t tell the Rockies that.”

“I don’t have any regrets about coming to Notre Dame. I’m very happy. I was able to get the college experience, grow up a little bit and develop my skills. And now I’m drafted in the fifth round and am extremely happy about that.”

“Yes, the Rockies are looking at me as a third baseman.”

“I talked to [former ND pitcher] J.P. Gagne this morning and actually might have a chance to play with him in Tri-Cities. I might see him there.”

“The whole college experience has been great, as has being on this team with such great teammates and great coaches who helped me to develop into the player I am today. They helped me mature all-around. For every reason I came to Notre Dame, I’ve gotten that plus more out of it.”

“A lot of my success this year had to do with the approach I had and just being more disciplined at the plate and knowing what I want to do with the ball in certain situations. And that can be credited to being able to play every day and not having any limitations of being injured. I was able to play all summer and in the fall and just got back in the swing of things. That was huge just getting all that experience. I was able to better understand my approach and my swing, hone it down to what I needed to do to be able to hit well.”

“[Assistant] coach [David] Grewe was working with me from the first day in the fall on my swing, working on getting my hands in and out. We worked on that every day and every game he would remind me, ‘Keep your hands in, get out in front of the plate and be aggressive.’ He was a huge part of my success in hitting this year.”

“He knows each player so well and what makes each guy hit well. He is able to see if we deviate from that and corrects us. He worked really hard for each one of us every day and that’s great to have from a hitting coach.”

“Back during my senior year in high school, I always listened to the Notre Dame games on the internet. I heard all those players in 2001 making their own niche into the program and doing their special things and now I look back at what we did these last few years and I’m honored to be part of that.”

“[Athletic trainer] Mike Bean was one of the most special people to me in this program. Going down with that elbow injury freshman year, I don’t think any other school could have helped me as much because Mike Bean is the best. He works with you every day and knows how to work with you, not pushing you too fast and not taking it too slow. He did wonders for me. I credit it all to him.”

Steve Sollmann (Sr., 2B; 10th-round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers)

“Yesterday was really hard, putting that uniform on for the last time is something that will take me a while to deal with. Today is great. It is a new chapter in my life and hopefully I can experience the same success in minor-league ball “

“I’ll go wherever they want me to go, as soon as they want me. I’m just happy they have given me to opportunity to go out and play. I am going to take advantage of it.”

“It will be a totally different experience. I’ve been at Notre Dame for four years and I’ve been able to play with great players and some great friends. Playing for coach Mainieri was one of the greatest honors I could ever have. It’s a whole different situation now It’s do-or-die time. I’m going to go out and play like I have for the last four years.”

“It’s been a pretty crazy day with the rollercoaster of emotions. But I’m really excited. It’s sad for me that my career at Notre Dame is over but I guess it’s time for me to start a new career.

“It’s been an amazing four years here and it’s exceeded all my expectations by far. I came in here and I knew what it took to play baseball here at Notre Dame and I knew I could play with the guys that were on this team. But I didn’t know how great the kids on the team were going to be and how close of friends I would become with all of them. I really consider myself lucky to have been able to play with these guys.”

“I came here to play baseball but the fact that Notre Dame presents such a great education also weighed into it. That’s what is so special about this school is that you can play for a top program like our baseball team but you also can get one of the best educations in the country. Both of my parents are educators and have instilled that value in me since I was a young pup and I’ve really taken to what they’ve told me.”

“A lot of players that go through this program talk about how special it is here and how it’s different than any other program that they’ve ever heard about. And the reason that this program is so different is because of coach [Paul] Mainieri. He really makes Notre Dame a special place, not only on the baseball field but people take that experience on the baseball field into other parts of their lives when they are here. He does a great job of making this a special place. We talk about how unselfish the players are on this team and it’s because we buy into the way he wants us to play the game. We respect him more than anyone else on the field at all times.”

“[Athletic trainer] Mike Bean has helped just about every person in my family. My brother when he was here I’m sure had problems and Mike helped him out. My dad passed out in right field when I was out there and Mike helped him and then, just yesterday, my mom cut herself up with a knife and he sewed her up. I owe a lot to that guy. He has helped me from the time when I broke my hand freshman year and it seems like I’ve always had something going on. He really is a special person in this program and what he contributes can’t be overlooked.”

Javi Sanchez (Sr., C; 14th-round selection of the Minnesota Twins)

“It is an incredible feeling to be selected in the draft. Coming here four years ago, I never thought that my dream of playing minor-league baseball and maybe one day in the big leagues would come true. I got the phone call today and it was an amazing feeling. All the hard work I put in, as well as the work of those around me, my family, my coaches, my teammates, has paid off.”

“I told [assistant] coach [David] Grewe he should be just as happy if not happier than I am. All the work that we put in together was amazing. Even though it was my name that was drafted, he’s just as much a part of this as I am.”

“My parents are the great example of my life, they are great role models. They made the sacrifices for me to get where I am right now. Without them, none of it would have been possible. The reason they support this staff and this team is because of the people that are here. And they know how much I care about it.”

“Back when I was playing summer ball after my senior year in high school, I got to second base on a passed ball and Steve [Sollmann] was covering second base. I said ‘Hey are you Steve? I am Javi and I’m going to be your teammate at Notre Dame next year.’ He was so caught up in the game, he didn’t really say anything. It’s amazing, four years later we are the best of friends.”

“The thing I admire most about Steve is the example he sets. He’s not a real vocal kid, or someone who is going to get in your face, but his example for the younger guys is amazing. That day he went down, it felt like a chunk of our team was going down. I know it was only one person, but he’s just such an intricate part of our team. The way he handles himself on the field and in the locker room is amazing and I’m going to miss him more than anybody next year.”

“I don’t think it’s hit yet. I’m still kind of lingering over our loss yesterday. I think maybe in a few weeks or a month I’ll be able to look back at the career I had. The six seniors I am graduating with are a special class and I going to miss those guys a lot.”

“We had some special talent and I think people around the country started to realize that this program is for real and it’s at the point where it needs to be. More important than the talent is the great teamwork that we’ve had and that no one member of the team is more important than another.”