Inside Cardinal Baseball: Weekly Notebook

The University of Louisville baseball team wrapped up it's fall work with the Omaha Challenge last week. Only weeks from the start of season prep, Cardinal Authority has a few news and notes on Dan McDonnell's squad.

The completion of the program's Omaha Challenge brought an end of team workouts for the fall ball season that began with six weeks of practice and scrimmages in September and October.

The players now turn their attention to finishing the semester strong in the classroom before returning for individual instruction in January. During the time off, the players will continue working on perfecting their game on the mound or plate.

"We've got finals next week, so from an academic standpoint, that's number one," head coach Dan McDonnell said. "They are in a mode right now where they are always going to work out. They're always going to find time to get to the weight room. Coach Williams has the pitchers doing a certain throwing program. Coach Lemonis has the hitters hitting just about every day on their own.

Individual instruction will resume with the start of the new semester on January 6. The season opener is February 14 versus West Virginia in Charleston, S.C.

"Once we start class, we jump into individuals and then in the middle of February you are playing your first game, so it'll be here before you know it."

Year of the Cardinal bourbon

Last week, the University of Louisville and Maker's Mark announced a new commemorative bottle that celebrates the Year of the Cardinal. Dan McDonnell, along with football coach Charlie Strong, men's basketball coach Rick Pitino and women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, has his image on the limited edition bottle.

"It's very cool," McDonnell said. "It's not just about us. It says that we are one sport that had a great year in conjunction with other sports, like football and men's and women's basketball. Any given year, it's men's soccer and volleyball, and other sports are always in the hunt, so you are proud that you are a part of it. That's always the challenge at Louisville.

"We know how great the athletic department is and we know Tom Jurich's accolades and his expectations, so when you're recruited to come here it's to do something special in baseball, but also to do something special in this athletic department. You want to part of this success."

Leadoff dinner

Former American League MVP and five-time Major League Baseball All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will serve as the featured guest at the 2014 Louisville Baseball Leadoff Dinner presented by Republic Bank on Friday, Jan. 31.

"It's fun," McDonnell said of the annual event. "Josh Hamilton is obviously a big name. We've had a lot of big names come. It's very flattering when a guy like Josh Hamilton takes time out of his schedule to encourage and motivate. It's the leadoff banquet for that reason. It's to let everybody know that the its the players who are the most important.

"I know our fans are really excited to have Josh come spend the night with us."

With the start of the regular season just two weeks later, McDonnell says the event provides an opportunity for the coaches and players realize how soon play will begin.

"You stand on that stage in your suit and tie and realize that baseball season is here."

ACC boosts recruiting

The Cardinals have inked another top 25 recruiting class and while it marks the fifth such ranking in six years, some of the recent spike can be attributed to the pending move to the ACC.

"Chris and Roger, there are reasons that they were the assistant coaches of the year," McDonnell said. "They are great recruiters and getting that boost of going to the ACC has really helped us. We've always had the facilities and we've always made the commitment to be a first-class program and going into arguably the best baseball conference in the country - last year the ACC was the number one RPI conference in the country - kids want to play against great competition. Recruiting has been going well, but it never ends and we are always preparing for the future."

Louisville continues to recruit the Midwest.

"It's our goal. We want to be the southern school for all the Midwest kids."

Out of Conference Slate

The 2014 schedule has a handful of exciting out of conference contests. After opening the season on the road against former Big East rival West Virginia and McDonnell's alma mater The Citadel at the Homewood Suites Tournament, the Cardinals return home to host in-state foe Eastern Kentucky and then a weekend set with Western Michigan.

Additional out of conference opponents include meetings with three of the higher rated programs in the region. The Cardinals have three separate games, two at home, against growing rival Indiana, a home-and-home set with Kentucky and a trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt.

Click here to view the entire schdule.

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