Samardzija in the News

Cubs pitching prospect and Notre Dame football wide receiver Jeff Samardzija is in the news most every week in South Bend, and Saturday was no different.

The two-sport athlete, drafted as a right-handed pitcher with the Cubs' fifth-round selection this past June, caught six passes for 177 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's 45-26 Notre Dame win over the University of North Carolina in South Bend.

Two weeks earlier, Samardzija caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Notre Dame's come-from-behind victory over UCLA. His touchdown on Saturday was significant, as it was the 23rd in Samardzija's Notre Dame career, breaking a school record previously set in 1995.

Before the Irish football season began, Samardzija made seven starts in the Cubs' farm system earlier this year. He combined for 30 innings on the mound between short-season, Class Low A Boise and Class A Peoria, going 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 17 strikeouts to 12 walks.

The decision to draft Samardzija, who attracts plenty of attention from pro football scouts and figures to warrant quality consideration in next year's NFL draft, was considered somewhat of a gamble by the Cubs and Scouting Director Tim Wilken back in June.

Wilken felt the risk was worth taking, however.

"We knew about his football capabilities and we know he's a high profile guy for the NFL, but it wasn't something we were afraid of," Wilken told us in late June. "It was a situation where we felt pretty good about our chances with Jeff. He's conveyed to us his desire to play baseball and is definitely not going into this half-assed. He's going into this with the intention of being a major league pitcher. He has those capabilities."

Samardzija signed with the Cubs shortly after the draft and made his professional baseball debut on June 27 in Boise. He allowed two runs or less in all but one of his seven starts, leaving Peoria at the end of July to return to Notre Dame for the start of fall football practice.

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry knew of Samardzija's potential on the mound and had met the 21-year-old prior to the draft. (Hendry is best friends with Paul Mainieri, Notre Dame's head baseball coach during Samardzija's college baseball career. Two years earlier, the Cubs drafted another of Mainieri's pupils in right-hander Grant Johnson.)

"This spring, he topped out at 99 and pretty much sat at 93-94," Mainieri told reporters at a press conference shortly after Samardzija was drafted by the Cubs. "He developed a really good slider and changeup just in the last year."

"I felt that some clubs didn't think they could dabble into this," Wilken said. "It was an 'eye of the beholder' decision, but Jim feels very solid about this situation with Jeff. Jeff is extremely serious about baseball and hopefully somewhere down the line, we'll make it a situation where it will be hard for him to not want to become a full-time Chicago Cub."

In the meantime, Irish Eyes magazine was among the onslaught of media gathered for Samardzija's post-game press conference with reporters and offers this video of his thoughts on Saturday's win, the new school record and more following the No. 11 Irish's eighth victory of the year.

Video Link: Samardzija on Saturday.

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