During his seven seasons as the U of L skipper, Dan McDonnell has infused a new level of expectations within the Cardinal baseball program. The program has risen from one of hoping to reach post season play, to one that has its sights on the College World Series.
"There is a lot of confidence in our program and it starts with Tom Jurich and our administration. Right down to the coaches, to the players and the fan base," said McDonnell, who has won 68% of his games at U of L.
During post game interviews after the second loss in Omaha, McDonnell and the players spoke with confidence about the direction and goals of the program. McDonnell reiterated that late last week.
"We do believe," he said. "We do believe we are going to win a National Championship, but the most important thing is the journey. To me, we are a program that year in and year out, we will be on a unique journey to get into the NCAA's, play well in the NCAA's and to get to Omaha. We have to take it one year at a time."
Coach of the Year Nominee
After guiding the program to its second College World Series this spring, Dan McDonnell was named one of seven finalists for the CollegeBaseballInsider.com's National Coach of the Year honor.
The rest of the group includes John Cohen of Mississippi State, Brad Hill of Kansas State, Brian O'Connor of Virginia, John Savage of UCLA, Tracy Smith of Indiana and Rick Vanderhook of Cal State Fullerton.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 3.
Since the Cardinals 2007 run to the College World Series, interest for Louisville baseball has grown at a rapid pace. The expansion of Jim Patterson Stadium has added to the excitement, as larger and more boisterous crowds are becoming commonplace.
Currently all but the game versus Kentucky and post season events are free. No ticket required. Might that be about to change? Isn't it about time it did?
The pending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014 will only bolster the growing enthusiasm. Considered one of the two best baseball conferences in the land, play in the ACC will be a challenge, night in and night out. Growing and intensifying rivalries with Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Indiana, Western Kentucky and others will make future U of L schedules among the most entertaining in the nation.
"That's Tom Jurich's decision and something that we address every year," McDonnell explained when asked about the possibility. "I've always thought that at some point we might have to charge and that could be just the demand for people wanting their seat and the comfort of knowing that you can donate to get the same seats every game."
"Without a doubt, it's been fun seeing our fan base grow," he said. "I love the direction that we are going in and I appreciate our fan support and how it has grown. People are becoming more and more familiar with Louisville baseball, as well as the rest of college baseball and they are becoming a great fan base for baseball."
Immediately upon returning from Omaha, the coaches turned their attention to finding teams in the summer leagues for his players. Eighteen Cardinals are now playing in summer leagues, plus reliever Nick Burdi is working with the U.S. Collegiate National Team.
McDonnell explained that he works to find locations for his players in elite leagues that will provide the opportunity for his players to play, "with the mindset to succeed, to be leaders, to be role models and to help your summer teams win."
The importance to succeed in each is crucial for player development during the off season.
"They know every morning I get my coffee, click on the internet and I'm scanning through every kid and what they did the night before. They know they are being watched and being evaluated. We're text messaging, we're talking on the phone and I'm sending letters to them. They know that they have to have success or at least give a great effort this summer if there is any thought or hope of them succeeding at our level and helping this program get back to Omaha."
Seven Players Drafted, Seven Signed
The University of Louisville had seven players drafted in the recent Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and all have now signed with those franchises.
Pitchers Dace Kime (Cleveland Indians), Jeff Thompson (Detroit Tigers), Chad Green (Tigers) and Cody Ege (Texas Rangers), along with position players Ty Young (Tampa Bay Rays), Coco Johnson (Miami Marlins) and Adam Engel (Chicago White Sox) have all inked pro contracts and are now reporting to minor league assignments.
After suffering a strained forearm during Super Regional play, sophomore lefty Joe Filameno had rehabbed his way back and reported to his summer team. Unfortunately on Monday, the Wareham (Mass.) Gatemen announced that they had to release Filameno due to injury. No additional news was released.
American Conference Tournament
The first-ever AAC baseball tournament will be held on familiar grounds. The league has announced that the event will be held at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The championship will take place May 21-25, 2014.
Bright House Field, which is regarded as one of the finest minor league playing and practice facilities in the nation, is no stranger to collegiate baseball after hosting seven Big East Championships. The site first hosted the conference tournament in 2006 and was the league's championship destination for seven of the last eight years.