Jesse Woods, who spent three seasons coaching at Boston College under current University of Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki, enters his sixth season with the Irish in 2016 where he oversees the catchers and hitters in addition to splitting recruiting efforts with fellow assistant coach Chuck Ristano. In previous seasons, Woods has also worked with the outfielders.
In addition to mentoring several MLB draftees during his time at Boston College and Notre Dame, Woods has also made a huge impact on the recruiting trail, highlighted by five top-45 classes (including four in the top 40) from 2011-15 while teaming with Ristano. True recruiters nationally, the duo has helped bring in talented classes that feature student-athletes from coast-to-coast and over 15 states since the fall of 2010.
Several elite position player prospects have chosen to come to school after hearing their names called in the MLB Draft include recent high school draftees Cavan Biggio (29th Round, 2013), Ryan Lidge (40th Round, 2013) and Matt Vierling (30th Round, 2015).
After a tough transitional year in 2014 saw the Irish move from the BIG EAST to the elite Atlantic Coast Conference, the pieces began to come together in 2015 as the Irish finished 37-23 overall, tied for third in the ACC during the regular season and advanced to their first NCAA Regional since 2006. The 37 wins were the most by an Irish squad since the 2006 campaign.
An improved offense certainly helped the Irish cause in 2015, as the Notre Dame bats totaled 56 more extra-base hits (163-107) than in 2014 including 31 more homers (42-11) in just seven extra games played. The Irish improved their average runs per game from 3.8 to 5.2 and their average hits per game from 8.1 to 8.5.
Individually, sophomore infielder Kyle Fiala (.268 to .301) and senior outfielder Robert Youngdahl (.225 to .290) both increased their batting average substantially to secure third team all-ACC honors. Senior Ryan Bull upped his batting average from .212 to .268 and put a cap on his career by receiving all-region honors at the NCAA Champaign Regional. Sophomore Cavan Biggio, meanwhile, increased his on-base percentage from .329 to .406 in large part due to his 50 walks, which ranked 14th in Division I.
Behind the dish sophomore Ryan Lidge had a breakout year in 2015, increasing his offensive numbers across the board while playing 57 games at catcher and in 60 contests overall. He totaled a .992 fielding percentage and caught 17 opponents trying to steal a base to become a nominee for the Johnny Bench Award, which goes to the nation’s top catcher.
After making the jump from the BIG EAST to the elite Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, the Irish offense suffered some growing pains with an extremely inexperienced lineup that lost three MLB Draftees and a four-year starter at second base from its 2013 everyday lineup. However, the year provided many opportunities to gain experience, as 14 players started 10 or more games while 12 started 20 or more and nine started 30 or more. Included in the group of 14 were six underclassmen including three true freshmen that started a combined 123 games.
Behind the dish, the tandem of senior Forrest Johnson and Lidge committed just two errors in 366 chances and had only eight passed balls in 53 games.
Johnson, who earned two degrees (undergrad & grad) while at Notre Dame, is arguably one of Woods’ biggest success stories, as the Hudson, Ohio native had appeared in just one career game prior to his junior year. After hitting .207 in 2013, Johnson batted .248 (41 points higher) while starting 31 games and appearing in 41 contests in 2014. He also hit his first career home run and triple during the year.
The Irish continued their offensive progression under Woods in 2013, as the squad hit .276 on the year, showing power with 26 homers (third in BIG EAST) but also displaying a knack for manufacturing runs by leading the league (25th nationally) in sacrifice bunts (64) and finishing second (24th nationally) in sacrifice flies (33).
Two of the most prolific offensive players in school history capped off their careers in 2013 as second team All-American and BIG EAST Player of the Year Eric Jagielo (26th overall - New York Yankees) and third team All-American and first team all-conference performer Trey Mancini (eighth round - Baltimore Orioles) both turned in sensational junior campaigns into high draft picks in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Mancini later won the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award from the Baltimore Orioles organization after a spectacular 2015 MiLB campaign helped earn him an invitation to major league spring training in 2016. Jagielo, meanwhile, showed promise in the Yankees minor league system while battling injuries before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. The Illinois native also earned an invitation to major league spring training for 2016.
In his last year at Notre Dame in 2013, Jagielo led the BIG EAST in on-base percentage (.500 - sixth nationally) and slugging percentage (.633 - 25th nationally), finished second in batting average (.388 - 18th nationally) and home runs (9), fourth in total bases (124), fifth in doubles (19) and RBI (53), seventh in sacrifice flies (6) and eighth in walks (35).
Mancini, meanwhile, placed first in the BIG EAST in batting average (.389 - 15th nationally), triples (7 - sixth nationally) and total bases (138), second in hits (89 - 22nd nationally) and third in RBI (54), sacrifice flies (8 - 18th nationally) and slugging percentage (.603).
In addition to Jagielo and Mancini, Bull earned third team all-BIG EAST honors after a breakout year where he totaled 69 hits (.319 avg.) and 27 walks and senior Frank DeSico closed out a strong career by stealing a team-high 19 bases (11th BIG EAST) and tying for the team-high with 47 runs scored. Fellow senior outfielder Charlie Markson fielded at a .974 rate and had 11 stolen bases in his final campaign before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 38th round (1,142nd pick).
Notre Dame proved to be a vastly improved offensive club under Woods' second year of tutelage in 2012. After the Irish batted .239 in 2011 - the lowest batting average for an Irish squad since 1978 (the last year when the NCAA still used wooden bats) - Notre Dame raised its team average by nearly 40 points to .277. In 2011, the Irish had 12 or more hits in just five games, but recorded 18 such games in 2012. Notre Dame collected at least 10 hits in 28 games in 2012 as opposed to 14 double-digit hit games in 2011.
Notre Dame hit 36 home runs in 2012, which led the BIG EAST and was 18 more than in 2011, when only three teams in the league had fewer.
The Irish were the only team in the BIG EAST with a pair of players with 10 or more home runs. The sophomore duo of Jagielo (13) and Mancini (12) combined for 25 round trippers. Jagielo ranked second in the league and Mancini was tied for third.
Jagielo and Mancini was the first Irish tandem with 10 or more home runs in the same season since Jeremy Barnes (15) and A.J. Pollock (10) in 2009. They were the first set of Notre Dame sophomores to collect double-digit home runs in the same season since Matt Bransfield (12) and Craig Cooper (10) in 2004.
Junior catcher Joe Hudson turned in a fantastic year, hitting a team-high .332 with 14 doubles, six homers and 39 RBI. He also displayed patience at the plate by drawing 23 walks and receiving a team-high 14 bases due to being hit by a pitch. Hudson turned the stellar junior year into a high draft pick as he was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
Woods managed through a difficult transition for Notre Dame in 2011, factoring in the new BBCOR standard for bat testing and five first-year everyday starters into the lineup. The Irish struggled offensively for much of the season, but Woods did aid in the development of the rookie tandem of Mancini and Jagielo - whom hit third and fourth, respectively, over the entire year. Notre Dame has not had first-year players in those two spots of the lineup in at least 23 years (dating back to the 1988 season when records allow game-by-game lineups).
Mancini was the first Irish rookie and eighth player in program history to lead Notre Dame in all three triple-crown categories (batting average, home runs and RBI). He also was named 2011 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, third team all-BIG EAST and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. In addition to the triple crown categories, Mancini led the Irish in hits (61), doubles (15), triples (three), total bases (109), slugging percentage (.577) on-base percentage (.385), multiple hit games (17), multiple RBI games (nine) and runs scored (33).
Mancini earned a spot on the BIG EAST honor roll three times in 2011. No player was honored by the BIG EAST more than Mancini in terms of Player of the Week/Honor Roll citations.
Jagielo was the first Notre Dame rookie to bat third in a season opener since at least 1988. He started all 53 games in 2011 at four different positions. Jagielo started at first base, third base, left field and center field. He hit third in the lineup the entire year and led the Irish in walks (25) while ranking second on the team in slugging percentage (.418), runs scored (32), hits (54), RBI (28), doubles (13), home runs (five), total bases (84), multiple hit games (15) and multi-RBI games.
Woods was especially critical in the development of fifth-year senior OF Herman Petzold in 2012.
Petzold entered the season with exactly three base hits and no RBI in 10 at-bats over 11 career games -- all off the bench. Petzold also played exclusively as a middle infielder over his first four years at Notre Dame. In fact, when the new coaching staff took over the program in June, Petzold was not even listed on the roster, but he was offered an opportunity to tryout in the fall without any guarantees of a spot on the roster.
Petzold earned a starting spot in right field and started all 53 games in 2012. He ranked second in batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.363) and sacrifice bunts (10). He registered a hit in 35 of Notre Dame's 53 games. Petzold also ranked third on the team with 12 multi-hit games, including a team-best equaling four games with at least three hits.
Woods also aided in Jagielo's development as an outfielder. A converted shortstop from high school, Jagielo opened the season at first base, then moved to third base before ultimately closing the season in the outfield.
Before coming to work under the Golden Dome, Woods spent three seasons at Boston College under Aoki. In addition to his recruiting duties with the Eagles (2008-10), Woods worked with the BC outfielders and hitters. He developed three of the premier outfielders in New England and the ACC during his time in Chestnut Hill. Barry Butera was drafted in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2009. Robbie Anston established himself as one of the best leadoff hitters in the country in 2009 and earned all-ACC second team honors. Anston was drafted in the 26th round of the 2010 draft, while John Spatola was nabbed in the 35th round.
Also learning under Woods' tutelage was catcher Tony Sanchez, who finished his career with 24 homers, 124 RBI, 202 hits and 125 runs. During his final campaign in 2009, Sanchez was one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award in addition to earning third team All-America honors. Sanchez was taken with the fourth pick in the 2009 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and cracked the Major League roster in 2013.
Woods came to Boston College after three seasons as an assistant coach at Wheaton College (Massachusetts). While at Wheaton, Woods assisted with recruiting, game management tasks, implementing practice schedules and off-field conditioning. Woods helped Wheaton win three New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championships and advanced to the NCAA Regional Tournament all three seasons. In 2006, Wheaton advanced to the Division III National Championship game.
Prior to his coaching career, Woods played first base, catcher and outfield at Wheaton from 2001-04.
He and his teammates captured three NEWMAC Championships and made three regional appearances. Woods was voted co-captain by his teammates prior to the start of the 2004 season.
Woods graduated with a degree in history from Wheaton in 2004.
He and his wife, Danielle, live in Granger and welcomed their first child, Caden, in February 2014.