By Mike Scarr / MLB.comWhen Brad Lidge takes the ball for the Phillies, the Irish eyes are smiling.
That's because Lidge is one of Notre Dame's own -- an alumnus who once was the Big East Conference pitcher of the year. For those who witnessed his power fastball and intimidating presence on the mound, it wasn't much of a contest.
"He was just a huge, dominant guy," said Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler. "He physically overmatched opposing batters. That was the thing that really stood out. I think if you were a batter you weren't going to be really excited to face him."
If the verdict demands evidence, then the 92 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings and 8-2 record Lidge posted for Notre Dame in 1998 should suffice. The hard-throwing right-hander carried his domination to the Majors, notching 41 saves in as many regular-season opportunities in 2008 before adding seven more in the postseason to help the Phillies win the World Series championship.
"A lot of these guys when they're that good, they're going to be starters at this level," Heisler said. "When you move into the professional ranks it is going to be different depending on what your role is. He's found a great niche for himself, that's for sure."
The Notre Dame baseball team reached the NCAA regional finals in 2005 and made it to the College World Series in '02. While it operates in the shadow of the football and basketball programs, baseball at Notre Dame strives to be a regular player in the NCAAs, and having its alumni play at the highest level provides a major boost.
"We are very proud of Brad Lidge and what he has accomplished in his career," Notre Dame head baseball coach Dave Schrage said. "He is a great representative of our program and we are very honored that he is an alumnus of Notre Dame. His perseverance and determination speak to what great character Brad embodies."
"It is exciting to watch a former player compete at such a high level and be on the big stage of the playoffs," Schrage said.
The Irish have been there before, as five other former Notre Dame players have played on World Series championship teams. Prior to Lidge, the last was Craig Counsell, who earned rings with the Marlins in 1997 and with the Diamondbacks in 2001.
The other Irish to have won World Series rings are Cubs right-hander Ed Reulbach (1907-08); Red Sox pinch-hitter Jean Dubuc (1918); Tigers first baseman John McHale (1945); and Phillies right-hander Ron Reed (1980).
Joining Lidge in the 2008 postseason was Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs rookie right-hander who was also a standout receiver on the Notre Dame football team. Another recent grad is Aaron Heilman, who played with Lidge in South Bend, appeared in the postseason with the Mets in 2006 and came agonizingly close to reaching October ball in each of the next two seasons, only to lose out to Lidge's Phillies.
"It is a great opportunity for [Lidge] and great visibility for our program," Heisler. "We actually have had a couple of other guys in the playoffs as well. Hopefully that is helping Notre Dame baseball become a little more of a household name at that level."
A couple of years ago, Lidge, who makes him offseason home in Englewood, Col., returned to campus to speak to the baseball team at its annual winter kickoff banquet.
"It was awesome," Lidge told MLB.com. "It was nice to meet the next generation, which makes me sound old. It was good to go back in the clubhouse. Things haven't changed that much."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.