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Mike Rooney Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 38

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“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.

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If there’s one person who knows the ins and outs of amateur baseball at every level, it’s longtime coach and broadcaster Mike Rooney.

Much of his 30+ year run in baseball can be traced back to his time as a student at Notre Dame. As a high schooler from Philadelphia area out of Malvern Prep who grew up a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish, Rooney didn’t have a backup school—Notre Dame was the only school he applied to.

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While he planned to attempt walking onto the Irish baseball team after arriving on campus in the fall of 1988, Rooney wasn’t banking on baseball to be his chance to participate in athletics, and thought he’d have a better shot quarterbacking his dorm’s full-pad inner-hall football team.

“I was so certain that I wasn’t going to make the baseball team at Notre Dame that after the walk-on tryouts in the afternoon, at night I was going to the Keenan Hall football practices,” said Rooney about his early days in South Bend.

Fortunately for Rooney, a decent athlete with speed and work ethic, the Fighting Irish program he tried out for hadn’t been to the postseason in over fifteen years, and was being spearheaded by a young second-year head coach in Pat Murphy. As a coach working with less than a full scholarship allotment, Murphy had to take chances on walk-ons, and fortunately for Rooney, the coach who slotted him into a roster spot would become his future boss.

“That was fate—just making the team as a walk-on and being able to stay on the team for four years changed my life forever,” said Rooney. “It’s just been kind of a wild ride really.”

Rooney graduated from Notre Dame in 1992 with an accounting degree, and decided to make a go of it on the road to becoming a CPA.

“I was an accountant, for ten working days,” said Rooney. “I had started to coach basketball and high school baseball, and I was hooked immediately.”

He got a teacher’s certificate and hit the ground running with coaching.

Rooney first returned to his alma mater Malvern Prep, coaching high school baseball and beginning to build a program in the same manner as his mentor Murphy had at Notre Dame.

After a tenure that included coaching a few first round picks (most notably 1995’s #2 overall pick, Ben Davis), Rooney attempted to jump into the college game. He reached out to every connection he had in baseball, and eventually was offered a volunteer, off-the-field position at Cal State Fullerton under legendary Coach George Horton, which he took in a heartbeat.

However, on the cross-country drive to Fullerton, Rooney received a call from his old college coach Pat Murphy, who was now the head man at Arizona State. Murphy had a 3rd base coach spot open, which after some forceful encouragement from his not-quite-yet boss Horton, Rooney jumped on.

Thus began an eight-year stint at Arizona State, recruiting and coaching future big leaguers while chasing Pac-10 titles. Soon after his ASU run, Rooney spent 2005 to 2008 at the junior college level as the head coach of Phoenix College, cementing an all-around experience when it comes to baseball at the amateur level.

His knowledge of every nook and cranny of amateur baseball, especially the college level, is what has led Rooney to so much success at his current gig, calling college baseball for ESPN. Fans of the college game hear Rooney’s voice on games all over the schedule each spring—something that it’s hard to imagine happening if he’d spent his college days as a quarterback in full-pad inner-hall football.

On today’s episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ ESPN college baseball analyst Mike Rooney joins to discuss his long career in baseball. He talks how to survive as a walk-on under Pat Murphy, recruiting battles at Arizona State, and what the essentials are for anyone visiting the College World Series.

Roc Riggio (Gina Ferazzi Los Angeles Times Via Getty Images)

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