A Week of Baseball

<P>The Irish baseball team is on a roll right now. They have won seven in a row and 10 out of their last 11 games. Strong pitching and Mainieri's aggressive style of base running along with good defense have fueled their winning streak. Many of the same elements that Irish fans fell in love with during the 2002 College World Series appearance still remain on the 2003 squad. </P>

One thing is very clear when watching Mainieri's team. His team plays with passion and discipline. They are very smart in the field and on the bases and you don't see them chasing bad pitches at the plate. This is one well-coached baseball team.

This team will not be hitting many out of the park but they will drive the ball and boy do they hustle when the ball is in play. They play smart baseball and stretch a single into a double or a double into a triple. They attack and keep attacking and they win with grace and respect. This is a team that resembles their coach.

My first week on the job meant rookie mistakes. I talked to Mainieri after his 700th win and recorded the conversation. Being a rookie, I also erased it sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday evening so I don't have the quotes to share of that important victory for Mainieri, his family and the team. A mistake I hope I don't make again.

I don't have the exact quotes but I can give you a summary of what he said. I asked Mainieri how it felt to win 700 games and asked if he ever thought he would win 700 games. Mainieri told me he was embarrassed that people were saying "he" won 700 games. He said a lot of people have won 700 games with him and his players and coaching staff have won the games on the field. He basically took credit for filling out the lineup and that is about it.

Mainieri talked fondly about his Dad who happened to win 300 more than he has and lives in South Bend during baseball season so he can watch his son's team. He talked about his son Tommy who he says shows much of the same passion for baseball as he did as a little boy. Most important, he talked with great fondness for his team and teams of the past as well as all the assistant coaches who have contributed along the way.

Watching the Irish pitching staff, I can see why Mainieri gives so much credit to pitching coach Brian O'Connor. As Mainieri said, "he recruited them all." Most pitching staffs have an ace or two with pure talent. They might have a strong closer and a middle relief guy but O'Connor has a pitching staff that many coaches would love to have. I'm quite sure they didn't come in this polished so O'Connor has had an impact. It's like a whole herd of Greg Maddux' out there thinking their way through the game and setting up hitters.

The Irish are a fun team to watch. They play with guts and a "never let up" attitude. They are led by one of the sports "Good Guys" in Mainieri. His players love him and that is obvious. They play hard for him and they play smart baseball like the game was meant to be played.

I hope more Irish fans catch baseball fever because Mainieri and the Irish baseball team are a true gem of Notre Dame sports. Many former players have thanked me for covering Notre Dame baseball but I consider it a privilege and not a job. The first thing every former player speaks about is Mainieri and that speaks volumes about him and Notre Dame baseball.

I think I have my recorder figured out now so hopefully I won't make the same mistake again.

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