Baseball is tradition-rich and quirky and democratic. No other sport encourages to keep your own score and expects you not to jinx the perfect game going on in front of you. It’s one in which fans collect cards and obsess over trivia like no other. It’s a game of poetry and literature and, as you can see, music.
But for Irish fans, baseball is a game that tends to fall into the gaps in our calendars and consciences, between the Trumpet Circles and “Win one for The Gipper!” speeches, which is unfortunate. Head Coach Mik Aoki, now in his fourth season at the helm and with an 88-80-1 record, has a solid squad that includes twenty-one returning lettermen. With a barnstorming schedule consisting of a just-completed series in Boca Raton, the upcoming Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio, and a tough ACC slate, there’s a good chance the Irish will be coming to a diamond near you. Based on personal experience, you shouldn’t miss a chance to meet and greet a talented squad of quality characters. The team’s visit to New Orleans last year was a personal highlight for me and my family.
Players to watch this season include pitchers Pat Connaughton (yes that one) and co-captain Sean Fitzgerald. In addition to his talents on the basketball court, Pat and his 1.71 ERA come into the 2014 season as the fifteenth-ranked right-handed pitcher in the nation, according to Baseball America. Lane Richards started all fifty-eight games for the Irish in 2013. Ryan Bull was a Third Team All-Big East Selection last season. Conor and Cavan Biggio (yes, that Biggio’s sons) and Kyle Richardson are among the talented sophomores and freshmen breaking into and looking to break into the lineup.
That said, the 2014 season is off to a rough start for the Irish, who dropped two of three to 24th-ranked FAU this weekend. The season opener really should have heralded better things as it brought the Irish their first win, 9-2, on the strength of a terrific, five inning, three hit performance by Sean Fitzgerald, who retired ten consecutive batters in one stretch. The day’s second game was a complete disaster in which the Owl’s managed eighteen hits, the Irish coughed up six errors and ended up losing 16-6. Sunday’s rubber-match wasn’t a lot better, as the Irish fell 13-3. Up next for Coach Aoki’s guys are a slate of Texas teams in San Antonio next weekend.
Your first opportunity to see the Irish in South Bend will come on March 18. I can’t think of a better way to get your Irish on than by root-root-rooting for the home team and helping the Irish shake down the thunder and live out their Glory Days.
For great, timely updates, follow @NDBaseball on Twitter. Coach Aoki’s feed is also worth a follow: @MikAoki9