Mainieri stays, Tamayo leaves in eventful summer
By NOAH AMSTADTER
Following the 1994 season, Pat Murphy resigned as Notre Dame's baseball coach to take the same position at Arizona State.
"To college baseball this [job] is Notre Dame football," Murphy said back in 1994. "I don't think I could go to a more established program than Arizona State."
So when Mississippi State called current Irish head coach Paul Mainieri four times this summer about its coaching vacancy, members of the Irish athletic department began thinking it was déjá vu all over again. But Mainieri — who led the Irish to their first ever No. 1 national ranking last season — remained loyal, electing to sign a multi-year contract extension rather than leave South Bend for Starksville, Miss.
"I was flattered that they called," Mainieri said. "It's one of the premier jobs in college baseball. But there was no way I could make that move. To me, the best days for Notre Dame baseball are ahead."
Mainieri also cited family concerns in making his decision to stay.
"I have three children in high school, including my son [Nicholas] who is the quarterback at St. Joseph's High School," Mainieri said. "The bottom like is that I love Notre Dame, and I'm very excited about the future."
When Mainieri's multi-year deal was officially announced Aug. 3, Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White echoed the sentiments of many Notre Dame baseball fans.
"During Paul Mainieri's first seven years as the leader of Notre Dame baseball, the team has steadily progressed to the point of being one of the top programs in the nation and we certainly are delighted to have him continue as the leader of such an exciting program," White said in a statement.
Mainieri will have to continue this season with a re-tooled pitching staff. Aaron Heilman, last year's Observer Male Athlete of the Year and Notre Dame's best pitcher ever, finished his four years on the mound at Eck Stadium and is now pitching in the Mets organization.
Classmate Danny Tamayo, who emerged as one of the nation's top pitchers last season after missing parts of three seasons after "Tommy John" surgery, elected to sign with the Kansas City Royals as a 10th round draft choice rather than returning to Notre Dame for his final year of eligibility.
"Danny is an extremely loyal person," Mainieri said. "I think his loyalty made it a difficult decision for him. I encouraged him to sign. He already had his degree, if he would have entered the draft a year later he wouldn't have had any leverage."
what was best for him," Mainieri said. "Everybody expected him to go in the top 10 rounds. The 10th round is the cutoff, after that there's no money in the draft. The way it ended up, he was disappointed but I think it's a blessing both for Paul and the team."
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Irish catching position is fairly empty behind veteran O'Toole. Third baseman Andrew Bushey, who also served as backup catcher last season, is out of fall practices recovering from shoulder surgery. Freshman Jay Molina also underwent "Tommy John" surgery over the summer and is expected to miss the entire 2002 season.
But Molina's classmates comprise perhaps the best recruiting class in Notre Dame history. Matt Macri, rated by some as the best member of the high school class of 2001 to elect to attend college, is expected to start at shortstop. Pitchers Martin Vergara and Chris Niesel are also expected to step in and contribute right away.
"I really do believe we're going to shock the baseball world this year," Mainieri said.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 4, 2001