SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Notre Dame junior righthander Pat Connaughton took the mound for the Irish at newly renovated Eck Stadium for the final time this season against Pittsburgh, and barring an unlikely turn of events, it was Connaughton's last pitching performance in a Notre Dame baseball uniform.
|TOP 15 RELATIVES|
|Every baseball draft seems to provide a good number of intriguing backgrounds, particularly among players with big league bloodlines. Here's a sampling of 15 prospects in the 2014 draft with baseball relatives.|
|Player, Pos.||Baseball Relative (Relation)|
|Nick Gordon, ss||Tom Gordon (father), Dee Gordon (Dodgers SS, brother)|
|Bradley Zimmer, of||Kyle Zimmer (Royals 2012 first-round pick, brother)|
|Aaron Nola, rhp||Austin Nola (Blue Jays farmhand, brother)|
|Derek Hill, of||Orsinio Hill (Dodgers scout/hitting coach, father)|
|Casey Gillaspie, 1b||Conor Gillaspie (White Sox 3B, brother)|
|Cobi Johnson, rhp||Dane Johnson (Blue Jays pitching coach, father)|
|Jake Cosart, rhp||Jarred Cosart (Astros pitcher, brother)|
|Grant Hockin, rhp||Harmon Killebrew (grandfather)|
|Luke Dykstra, ss||Len Dykstra (father)|
|Elliott Cary, of||Chuck Cary (ex-MLB pitcher, father)|
|Shane Zeile, c/1b||Todd Zeile (uncle)|
|Dalton Guthrie, ss||Mark Guthrie (ex-MLB pitcher, father)|
|Lukas Schiraldi, rhp||Calvin Schiraldi (ex-MLB pitcher, father)|
|Brandon Bonilla, rhp||Bobby Bonilla (father)|
|Alex Faedo, rhp||Len Faedo (ex-MLB infielder, father)|
Connaughton (3-5) worked seven solid innings, keeping Pittsburgh off the board as the Irish finally reached the 20-victory mark with a 3-0 verdict over the Panthers.
“This was a game where I was able to throw my offspeed for some strikes," Connaughton said. “I think that's a big thing for me moving forward."
His next move likely will be as a professional baseball player. In an interview with Irish Illustrated, Connaughton mapped out a plan that encompasses the baseball draft in June, the possibility of pitching for the organization that drafts him, a return to Notre Dame for the fall/winter to play his fourth season with Mike Brey's basketball squad, and then a return back to his new baseball employer for spring training in 2015, thus ending his baseball days with the Irish.
“At the end of the day, if I can excel at one or both of these sports, money is not going to be an issue," Connaughton said. “That's not why I play the game. That's not why I do it. I do it for the love of both sports. It would be easier if there was a dollar figure. It would mold my decision. But there isn't necessarily one, and that's why it's so tough to figure out how to balance two things I love to do."
While Connaughton's path to professional baseball is not a slam dunk, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander should be drafted in the first five rounds. With good size, athleticism and a fastball generally in the low-to-mid 90s, Connaughton is an attractive prospect. If the performance against the Panthers was his last in a Notre Dame uniform, he's finished his collegiate career 11-11, 3.02.
Connaughton struggled with command for most of his career. But he has shown the athleticism, according to several scouts, that pro coaches can work with to help harness his lively stuff. And there is track record for a Notre Dame two-sport pitcher to blossom after focusing on baseball. Former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, now the Cubs ace, had a 3.82 ERA with just 159 strikeouts in 240 innings with the Irish.
Brey has received inquiries about Connaughton and his intentions on the hardwood, a future that Connaughton has not ruled out. The 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this past season and is a career .368 three-point shooter (175-of-475).
“It's something I've been thinking about every single day," said Connaughton of the various options awaiting him. “I plan on coming back and playing basketball. Who knows, maybe there's a future in basketball and testing NBA waters.
“Let's see what happens in the baseball draft. That will determine what I do over the summer, and after that, it's a matter of negotiations to see when I get back to school."
Tim Prister writes for IrishIllustrated.com