Notre Dame does not start its baseball season for another two weeks when it takes on Ohio State in Dunedin, Fla. on Feb. 20, but the Irish kicked off the unofficial start of the season on Thursday evening with their Opening Night Dinner at the Joyce Center.
The keynote speakers for the event were former Notre Dame football and baseball great Jeff Samardzija and current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia, whose son Matt is a junior catcher with the Irish.
Samardzija said that as a recent Notre Dame graduate he did not feel that it was his place to lecture his former teammates and instead told them about how fast everything goes by before opening himself up for questions from them.
"I like to come back and almost be a teammate with them," Samardzija said. "I'm sure they don't like to be preached to just as much as I don't like to be preached to. It's just a fun thing and any little thing you can help them out with. The best thing that we did when I was talking to the team was just a Q&A. I don't really have too much that I want to say to you, but I would love to answer some of their questions."
Samardzija said that the players took advantage of the opportunity.
"They wanted to know a little bit about everything," he said. "Sometimes it's a little bit easier to ask a player or someone a little closer to your age. Maybe some questions that you don't want to ask a parent or a coach or something like that."
Mostly, the players wanted to know what it was like to pitch at Wrigley Field in comparison to Frank Eck Stadium. Samardzija said that it was actually easier to pitch at Wrigley.
"You'd be amazed about how good you'll do something if you just don't want to be booed by 47,000 people," he laughed. "Trust me, I went through the minor leagues playing in front of 500 and 1,000 people and my numbers weren't that great so I think I'm going to go with the 40,000."
Samardzija hinted that he will also use his time back to ask questions of those older than him.
"Some people in here have won World Series before so you'd like to pick those brains a little bit and see how that happened," Samardzija joked while sitting next to Scioscia. "I don't know who has, but I'm sure there's one guy around here somewhere."
Scioscia joked that the conversation about his son choosing Notre Dame consisted of him saying ‘You're going there and that's it.' He said that he was honored to be asked to speak to the Irish.
"I'm excited to be here," he said. "The collegiate level of baseball in this country is booming and Notre Dame is right in the middle of it.
"You could see the trend was always to draft high school players 30 years ago, 40 years ago. That gap has narrowed considerably and I think that the programs across the country, Notre Dame included, how their baseball programs have given back to their players."
Before the dinner, those in attendance got the chance to meet Samardzija and Scioscia along with the entire Notre Dame baseball team.