"This isn't a step for me," Schrage said. "This is the pinnacle. And that's how it should be looked at."
With his family in attendance, athletic director Kevin White presented Schrage to the media as the Irish's next manager, taking helm of a team that went 45-17-1 last year and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Irish, under Mainieri, who is now the head coach at LSU, also have the fourth best record in this decade.
Schrage is no stranger to the post-season himself. He took Evansville to 43 wins in 2006 and within two victories of the College Baseball World Series. Also, Schrage was forced to recruit true student athletes as Evansville is a private liberal arts university with an enrollment of just 2,500. He had two players win the Missouri Valley Conference's Presidents' Award, given to graduating seniors with grade point averages of 3.8 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Schrage was just the guy the Irish were looking for.
"Dave represents a great Notre Dame fit," White said. "And for me, that's what it comes down to."
His success goes further back than this season. Schrage, an Oak Park, Illinois native, is just one of five coaches in MVC history to win the conference coach of the year three or more times. He first started out as manager with Waldorf J.C. before moving on to Northern Iowa for nine years. After being named coach of the year twice between 1991-99, Schrage left for Northern Illinois for two years where he took a team that won two games in 1999 and led them to 24 in 2000. He then went to Evansville in 2002, where his success made him a viable candidate for the Notre Dame job.
"Today represents that dreams can become reality," Schrage said. "I felt that my philosophy and coaching met with Notre Dame in a sense of mission. And that is to develop the student athletes not only as players but spiritually, academically and as a total person.
"I told a number of people on the search committee than when I go recruit a player in his living room, I tell them our goal is 1) to win a ring on your finger 2) to have a diploma on your right hand and 3) to have a great heart and a have a great experience while you're here at Notre Dame."
Schrage has ties with Mainieri. He was Mainieri's grad assistant in 1984 at Biscayne College/ St. Thomas University. White told the media that Mainieri, along with numerous other people across the country, gave him a list of people who he thought could best fill the Notre Dame baseball job. One of them was Schrage's.
"Dave is an excellent baseball man," Mainieri said. "He really knows the game and the players never will have to worry about being outcoached in a big game. They should have a lot of confidence in him as he evaluates the players and makes game strategy decisions."
Notre Dame players also responded warmly to the hire.
"Coach Schrage is the best man for the job," junior pitcher/first baseman Mike Dury said. "Out of all the individuals that the players spoke with, it was clear that he would fit in the best at Notre Dame and take the program to the next level. All the players can't wait to get to work with him and the staff."
Schrage's managing style is a lot like Mainieri's: rely on pitching and defense. Evansville's staff ERA was 3.39 while the team fielding percentage stood at .975, both rated as 12th best in the NCAA. Cal State Fullerton was the only other team that was in the top-12 in these categories. Schrage also wants a fast team that can swipe or take the extra base at the opportune time."I've always been a coach who has tried to adapt to styles," Schrage said. "I think in the northern climate, you have to have team speed. We play in a lot of days where it's 38 degrees and the wind is blowing. You have to be able to manufacture some runs."