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Hear It From a Student - Baseball Practice Begins

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The calendar read Jan. 27, but the weather resembled that of a mild April day as Notre Dame held its first baseball practice in preparation for the 2012 season. Beneath sunny South Bend skies and temperatures surpassing 40 degrees with no snow on the ground, the Irish held part of their practice outside of the Loftus Indoor Sports Complex.

The outfielders used the field-turf surface of the football practice fields to shag fly balls and perform other drills.

Meanwhile, the majority of the practice occurred inside Loftus, where the Irish will prepare for their season once the South Bend winter returns. Notre Dame opens its season with the Big Ten/Big East Challenge against Illinois on Feb.17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"The biggest challenge [of practicing in Loftus] is using your imagination to project where a ball would have been hit," second-year Irish coach Mik Aoki said. "It's a big adjustment for our outfielders but doesn't really make a difference for our infielders and pitchers."

Despite the disadvantages that come with practicing indoors, Aoki believes the Notre Dame baseball program possesses the resources to adapt to and succeed in the South Bend climate.

"To succeed in a northern climate, [your program] needs strong indoor facilities, which we have in Loftus and our indoor batting cages," Aoki said.

He also described how Notre Dame baseball has key financial backing to travel south for a month of games early in the season. In addition, Aoki stressed the importance of Notre Dame's support personnel who help the baseball student-athletes develop both physically and mentally.

The Irish look to improve on a 23-29-1 record from the 2011 season, which ended with two losses to Big East regular-season champion and NCAA Super Regional qualifier Connecticut in the conference tournament.

However, the team enters this season with much youth on its roster, as 13 out of the 32 players are freshmen.

Yet, Aoki has been encouraged by the team's approach to this upcoming season as he believes they have brought a strong focus and all understand expectations.

"The energy we bring to practice and lifting along with the tempo at which we work is much improved compared to the start of last season," Aoki said.

- Matt Unger ('14)

The Counsell Rests

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counsell.jpgAP - Milwaukee Brewers infielder and former Notre Dame baseball player Craig Counsell has decided to retire and join the club's front office.

The Brewers said Tuesday that Counsell will become special assistant to General Manager Doug Melvin. Counsell is a Milwaukee native and follows his father into the Brewers' front office. John Counsell worked there from 1979-1987.

The 41-year-old Counsell completed his 15th major league season last year. His last five seasons have been spent in Milwaukee. Playing second base, shortstop and third base, Counsell compiled a .255 batting average with 218 doubles, 40 triples, 42 home runs, 647 runs and 390 RBI.

During his baseball career, Counsell played for the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Brewers.

Counsell says he's looking forward to beginning a new challenge in baseball.

30 Under 30

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weiss.jpgFormer Irish baseball player Brent Weiss ('05) recently was named to Forbes Magazine's "30 Under 30" list for field of finance. Said the magazine of the 29-year old employed at Brotman Financial: "Started off pushing paper for the $90mm firm. He passed the CFP exam in seven months and became the firm's second partner in 2011.

Weiss joined Brotman Financial Group in 2005 as an associate. Last January, Weiss became a principal of the firm. His primary role is delivering financial planning and wealth management for the firm's clients.

Weiss graduated with cum laude honors from Notre Dame in 2005 with a degree in finance and was part of the Irish squad that advanced to the NCAA Men's College World Series in 2002. Weiss started his second term as a board member of the Notre Dame Club of Maryland in June of 2010. He is the acting Monogram Club Coordinator for the Maryland Club and Region 12 of the Alumni Association, serving as a liaison between the local chapter and the University's national network of athletes.

Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

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A.J. Returns

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Hank Aaron Visits Notre Dame

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South Bend Tribune - Only a handful of the 300 or so in the auditorium at Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business on Wednesday actually saw Hank Aaron play a baseball game.

Aaron retired as baseball's all-time home run leader in 1976. The gathering of mostly entrepreneur majors weren't born until more than a decade later.

Didn't matter.

There was baseball talk. One student from Milwaukee thanked Aaron for the 1957 world championship. Another had the audacity to mention the name "Barry Bonds" in Hank's presence.

"You've got to be careful who you use as a role model," Aaron said. "They can look at someone -- I don't want to mention his name, but he hit more home runs than I did. Did he do it the right way?"

Hammerin' Hank did. He never weighed more than "175 pounds, soaking wet." He was discouraged from ever lifting a weight. He hit; hit with power; stole bases; and, as an outfielder, won three Gold Gloves.

He did business the same way.

"Just like baseball, you've gotta put your heart and soul into it," Aaron said.

That meant being at his multi-million dollar car dealerships by 5 a.m. It meant being a visible presence in the 32 restaurants he still owns.

"You have to make sure you run your business the way it's supposed to be run," Aaron said.

A poor African-American youngster from Mobile, Ala., Aaron relentlessly chased his dream.

Besides being the best baseball player he could possibly be, Aaron's life ambition was to be a success and then give back.

"When I retired from baseball, my wife (Billye) and I got together and said: 'What do I want to be remembered for?'" Aaron said. "My wife said, 'You chased your dream for many years, now it's time to help someone else chase theirs.'"

Thus was born Aaron's Chasing the Dream Foundation, which provides grants for children ages 9-12 to study writing, music, art, dance or sports.

Aaron has his philosophies:

"There are no shortcuts in life. If you think so, you'll get in trouble."

"You've gotta crawl; you've gotta walk; you've gotta take your time to get where you're going."

"The one thing (I learned) is how to treat people. Baseball is one thing. Business is something else."

"I don't know anyone who ever went to a ballpark to see an owner play. The players deserve (all the money) they can get."

"Barry Bonds (he actually did say the name that once) could have hit as many home runs without taking the substance he was accused of taking."

"Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame. I voted for him."

The 77-year-old was at ease in a room filled with 20-somethings. There was no generation gap.

"Could you be the (designated hitter) on my whiffle ball team?" one student asked.

"I haven't picked up a bat in 20 years," Aaron said.

So what? To those students, he was still the greatest home run hitter who ever lived.

"It makes you feel good when you have the respect of people here," Aaron said. "Probably 90 percent of the people in the audience never saw me play a game of baseball. They don't know whether I was a good baseball player, a bad baseball player, or just bragging on myself."

No brag. Just fact. Baseball or business, Hank's a legend.

Ask Us Before You Ask Them

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Are You Experienced?

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Student-Athletes Volunteer In Alabama

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ndmurphbama.jpg AL.com - A group of University of Notre Dame student-athletes and administrators wrapped up a week of volunteering in tornado relief Thursday on a fall break service trip organized by Notre Dame and the University of Alabama.

The trip, called Fight for Tide, brought 24 students and six administrators to Tuscaloosa to work in collaboration with Project Team Up, an initiative to rebuild communities partnered with Nick Saban's foundation Nick's Kids.

Students representing the Notre Dame baseball, cross country, cheerleading, fencing, men's golf, women's lacrosse, rowing and track and field teams were selected for the trip based on essays they wrote.

Sarah Smith, program coordinator for student athlete welfare and development at Notre Dame, said the idea to help Tuscaloosa began with a former Notre Dame employee who currently works in the ticket office at Alabama. He emailed the athletics office at Notre Dame and asked them to collect relief supplies that Alabama would pay to ship.

Smith, who is originally from a town an hour away from Joplin, Missouri, began to come up with an idea of a service trip when students started talking over the summer about going to down to Tuscaloosa to help.

"I just kind of ran with the idea and started calling people to see if it would be a possibility, and people started wanting to support it and make it happen," Smith said.

After arriving Saturday, the group has worked at two sites in Alberta City, clearing storm debris on lots where new houses are planned to be built. They also met with Alabama athletics director Mal Moore and went on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium, had dinner with Notre Dame's Alabama alumni club at Dreamland, attended Mass with students at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish on the Alabama campus and toured the baseball and softball facilities.

On Thursday, at a site just off University Boulevard on 21st Avenue East, Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy and several players joined the group from Notre Dame in clearing debris from destroyed houses and carrying limbs to the street.

Notre Dame baseball player Tommy Chase said the experience changed his perspective on the important things in life.

"I look at this as a great opportunity to help where there's a need," Chase said. "We get caught up at school doing a lot things for ourselves, whether it's in sports or in the classroom. Those are all great things, but it's revolved around our own needs and goals. Being able to come down here and help others is really important for my own personal development, but also I want to hopefully inspire this community in some way."

Notre Dame sophomore cheerleader Erin Garfield took time away from her team to travel to Tuscaloosa because the fall break gave her time to join the service trip. On Saturday night, she'll be cheering on the sidelines as the Irish face USC in South Bend.

"It's just been a great experience all around, hearing all these stories from people who experienced the tornado and getting to meet all these amazing people, Garfield said.

Alabama sophomore softball player Ryan Iamurri said she was glad to share the experience of volunteering in Alberta City with the students from Notre Dame.

"When you live here, you kind of get back in your normal routine, and if you don't cross this bridge (to Alberta), you forget what it's like," Iamurri said."It was so nice of them because we realize there's still so much more to do. To come out here with them is special."

Tradition at Notre Dame

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