Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dual-Sport Star | by Pat

Baseball America just released their annual Top 100 Prospect list (subscription article) and in addition to junior pitcher Jeff Manship (#75 overall), Jeff Samardzija was named to the list as the 94th best prospect in the country.

So what, if anything, does this mean for Samardzija's future at Notre Dame?

According to the editors at Baseball America, Samardzija's spot near the end of the Top 100 list usually translates to a 3rd to 5th round pick, with the qualifier that a lot can change between now and draft day (June 6-7). However, Samardzija's case is a bit different than the average college prospect due to his rising prospects as a pro caliber football player.

In all likelihood, where Samardzija will ultimately get drafted this year will depend on what he tells teams his plans are regarding baseball and football. According to Coach Mainieri, he should still have the option to do both.

"I'd love to see the kid have a great year, get drafted into professional baseball, get to go play next summer and have a taste of professional baseball. Then he could come back the first of August, get ready for football camp, go out and have another All-American football season and lead us to a national championship. And next December he could make his decision if he wants to pursue the NFL or stick with professional baseball.
When it comes to playing minor league ball in the summer, the conditions do look a bit favorable for Samardzija. He's already obviously established a great connection with Brady Quinn on the field and missing some time in the summer might allow the bulk of the younger and inexperienced receiving corps to get more reps with Quinn in the unsupervised 7-on-7 drills. It also helps that Coach Weis and Coach Maineri aren't fighting over Samardzija's talents but rather are working together to do what is best for him.
"If Charlie Weis didn't want him to play baseball, he'd have to make the choice now,'' Mainieri said. ``But Charlie is supportive and together we're making this work for Jeff. Jeff has been great for both our teams.''
Considering that Samardzija will enter his final football season as a co-favorite for the Biletnikoff Award and already is Mel Kiper's top rated wideout for the 2007 NFL Draft, his football prospects do look a little brighter to me. If that is indeed the case and Jeff decides to go the NFL route, this will probably be his final baseball season as next year he will probably have to take time off from the diamond to train for the combine and NFL draft.

In the meantime, Samardzija sounds like he isn't in too much of a rush to decide.
"From the beginning I said I was going to give my heart to both sports and whatever worked out in the end was going to be my decision,'' he said. "After this season my decision has gotten exponentially tougher. Still I'm not worried about it. I'm not leaning one way or the other. I'm just trying to have fun with these guys. It goes so fast, before you know it I'll be playing my last home game at Notre Dame Stadium and trying to figure out what I want to do.''