NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame junior outfielder A.J. Pollock has been selected 17th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tuesday's first round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Pollock's selection equals the highest an Irish player has ever been taken in draft, matching Ken Plesha (1965, Chicago White Sox) and Brad Lidge (1998, Houston Astros) - both were chosen 17th overall in their respective drafts. Pollock, just the second position player from Notre Dame ever drafted in the first round, becomes the fourth Irish player in the last 12 years of the draft to be taken either in the first round or as a Compensation A pick.
"Leading up to the draft, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of where I might go, but the whole process is wild," said Pollock. "You really don't know what to expect until your name is called. I'm honored, humbled, and more than anything, excited, to join a franchise like the Arizona Diamondbacks. It has always been a dream for me to play professional ball and it is becoming a reality. I'm overjoyed right now, also a little overwhelmed, but very happy. I am excited to take the next step and continue what I'm doing.
"There was no question that I would return to Notre Dame in the fall to finish school and now I might be able to play in South Bend for the Silver Hawks as well. I really can't imagine it working out any better."
Pollock is the only Irish player to ever hit 10 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season. He became the 11th player in Notre Dame baseball history to ever eclipse 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in a single season.
"We're very excited for A.J. Pollock," added Notre Dame head coach Dave Schrage. "It is extremely rewarding because he's worked hard for it. He did such a fantastic job for us the past three years. He's really come into his own over the last year, and I believe it's going to get nothing but better for him.
"What I love about A.J. is that no matter whether he's 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, he plays the game the same way. He's got a great demeanor. He plays relaxed, he plays for fun. He always comes early and hits extra. He just loves to play the game. I think that even-keel approach that he has is really going to be good for him when he gets into a situation where he's playing 162 games in a season."
One of two players in the BIG EAST that had at least 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases this past spring, Pollock became Notre Dame's first back-to-back MVP since Aaron Heilman (2000, 2001). He was named all-BIG EAST first team for the second consecutive season. The centerfielder started all 59 games for the Irish and batted .365 with 69 runs scored, 19 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs and 52 RBI. Pollock added 30 walks and 21 stolen bases. He led the squad in batting average, on-base percentage (.443), runs scored, hits (88), doubles, triples (tied), stolen bases, plate appearances (285), at bats (241), games played (tied) and games started (tied). Pollock ranked second on the club in slugging percentage (.610), RBI, home runs, total bases (147), walks, hit by pitch (seven) and sacrifice flies (tied, four). He finished season with a career-best 15 games hitting streak.
Pollock also played a flawless centerfield. He did not commit an error in 159 fielding chances, recorded 155 putouts and added four outfield assists this past spring. Pollock did not have an error over a 67-game stretch dating back to May 9, 2008. In fact, he committed just one error over his final 104 games.
The centerfielder ranked tied for first in the BIG EAST in fielding percentage, second in stolen bases, and fourth in steal attempts (regular season games only). He was even better in BIG EAST games only. Pollock ranked tied for first in fielding percentage, second in runs scored, tied for seventh in walks, and eighth in slugging percentage.
Pollock became the first player since Steve Stanley and just second in program history to lead Notre Dame in hitting three consecutive seasons. He also ranked among the top 15 in school history in the following single-season lists: at bats (ninth), total bases (t-12th), doubles (t-13th), hits (14th), triples (t-14th) and runs scored (t-14th).
The Hebron, Connecticut native's three-year career numbers include a .363 batting average (237-for-653), 157 runs scored, 41 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs, 122 RBI, 349 total bases, .534 slugging percentage, 86 walks, 14 hit by pitch, 52 strikeouts, .440 on-base percentage, 13 sacrifice flies, 16 sacrifice hits, 60-69 stolen bases, 347 putouts, 108 assists, and 22 errors (but just three over his last two seasons). He ranks second in career stolen base percentage, seventh in career stolen bases, and ninth in career batting average.
Pollock gained tremendous momentum heading into his draft eligible year following his performance last summer with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League. He finished the regular season on the Cape leading the league in hits (61), doubles (15) and slugging percentage (.556). Pollock ranked second in batting average at .377 -- a clip that remained above .300 all summer long -- as well as second in extra-base hits with 20. He also ranked third in on-base percentage (.455) and runs scored (35). Pollock smacked four home runs, drove in 25 RBI and stole 11 bases. He started in centerfield as a West Division All-Star, going 2-for-3 at the plate, including a solo home run. Pollock proved to be the perfect leadoff hitter for Falmouth, relying on his ability to make contact and put the ball in play, striking out only 24 times in 162 at-bats.
Pollock was the second Notre Dame player to ever capture Cape Cod League MVP. Dick Licini captured the award in 1968 as a first baseman for the Bourne Braves. He was also the second player ever from the BIG EAST Conference to be awarded MVP. John Morris of Seton Hall earned the honor in 1981.
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