Fournier Bringing His Bat to Notre Dame

<P>The Notre Dame baseball team has always had outstanding pitching prospects. The Irish are now starting to land some outstanding hitting prospect. Chris Fournier can hit—there's no question about that. The 6-1, 185-pound outfielder/infielder prospect from Fairfield, CT had an exceptional senior season and will be bringing his bat to South Bend in August. </P>

Chris Fournier has always been able to hit. He hit .536 as a junior (6 HR, 42 RBI), .450 as a sophomore and .410 as a freshman. Team One Baseball ranked him 10th among the "best pure hitters" in the country in 2002. His hitting has landed him on the All-State team two years in a row and he was also named Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut.

Fournier followed his outstanding junior season with an even more remarkable senior season. "I hit .630 this year. I had 3 home runs, 15 doubles, my on-base percentage was .752 and I had 30 walks. My team's record was 20-4 and we lost in the State Semi-Finals," said Fournier.

The Irish were able to land Fournier over some of the top teams in the country including BIG EAST rival West Virginia. "I was looking at West Virginia, LSU and St. Johns. LSU, West Virginia and Notre Dame were my final three. Notre Dame was the right place for me. I loved everything about it. "

Coach Paul Mainieri got his first look at Fournier during the Team One baseball camp held at Notre Dame. Mainieri was very impressed with Fournier. "We were really impressed by the way he swung the bat when we saw him last summer," said Mainieri. "He's a guy that just takes a really good swing, a very aggressive swing and the ball jumps off the bat. With us not knowing going into this past year what would happen with (Matt) Marci and (Steve) Sollmann, it was quite possible that we would need a freshman to come in and play right away. We're going to let him compete but he may be in a position where he has to wait his turn but you never know. He's the type of kid that wouldn't surprise me if he came out in fall practice and swings the bat so well that we'd have to find a place for him."

Maineri said he expects Fournier to play in the middle infield when all is said and done but he thinks he could play another position early in his career. "He played shortstop in high school but we more thought of him as a third baseman or a second baseman. Until we see him every day and go through fall practice, it's really hard to say. Basically we thought he could play the infield somewhere but could really swing the bat. If he swings the ball well enough, he could compete for a job in the outfield or DH."

The Team One Showcase also left a lasting impression on Fournier. "I played at the Team One Showcase. That was my first time I've ever been to the University. I took tour with my family around their campus and it was beautiful. I had heard of the baseball team because they went to the College World Series last year. After playing there I started to get letters from the coaching staff and they stared calling me. I was always interested from the very beginning. The academics that the institution provides are top notch. They have a great tradition and great baseball program. I was excited from day one and very grateful that they recruited me."

The Irish coaching staff was an important factor in Fournier choosing the Irish. "The coaching staff was very upfront with me. Some coaches don't always give you honest answers. They showed me a lot of interest which made me feel pretty good. They're all great guys. When I met them and talked to them on the phone I could tell that they were very professional and I could tell that their program was very professional and that they had a great desire to get back to Omaha every single year. They've built a great program and want to take it to the next level of being in Omaha every single year."

Fournier isn't sure where he will end up playing for the Irish. "I'm not really sure," said Fournier on the position he will play. "They've talked about playing me at third or maybe a corner outfield spot. They told me that they wanted to get my bat in the lineup as long as I keep working hard and I can prove to them that I can hit at that level. It doesn't matter to me where I play as long as I can get in there swinging."

The Connecticut native describes himself as a complete hitter. "It's just using all fields. I'm kind of a gap-to-gap guy but I have power. I just go with the pitch and hit it to right-center or left-center. I try to keep my hands inside and drive the baseball. I think I recognize all pitches well. Like most hitters, I probably hit the fastball the best but this year I've worked on staying back on the off-speed pitches and driving the ball the other way. I think I've done a pretty good job with that." With a .630 average, he's probably right.

Fournier has set some goals for himself for his freshman year. "I want to go in and prove to the coaching staff that I can play. I will set some short-term goals for myself like making the traveling squad. From there I just want to earn a starting position. Everything else will fall into place after that."

Fournier will have a busy summer playing for the Connecticut Blue Jays—a traveling summer team. "It's a mix of seniors and some players who've already played their freshman year and are coming back for summer baseball. We play games against teams from all around the area. I'm playing with them and played with them last summer as well."

Coach Mainieri has always wanted to build his team with players that fit his style of baseball as well as his standards for character--Fournier is a classic example. He is an outstanding hitter but might be a better person. He is very confident in his ability but not the slightest bit cocky. Expect big numbers and hopefully some College World Series hits from Fournier in the future.

I keep saying this but I'm not sure if people understand how firmly I believe this. Mainieri is building a program that will rival any team in college baseball and it won't be long before he gets there. I just hope Irish fans continue to support him because they truly don't understand what a gem they have in Mainieri.

Notre Dame Sports Information contributed to this story.


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