Graham Sikes will begin his third season on the Notre Dame baseball coaching staff after spending the previous season as an assistant coach at James Madison University. Sikes will serve as the volunteer assistant coach for the Irish, with primary coaching duties for the catcher and outfielder positions. He also will oversee Notre Dame's expansive baseball camp operation and help coordinate the program's annual Opening Night Dinner.
Sikes has been instrumental in the major improvement of the Irish defense over the past two seasons. In 2009, catcher Cameron McConnell threw out 26 base stealers - most by an Irish catcher since 1996 and seventh-most in the nation. The last Irish catcher to throw out 20+ runners in a season was Paul O'Toole in 2002. O'Toole threw out 23 runners (67 attempts) that season. McConnell threw out 36.1% (26 of 72) of attempted base stealers on the season, which was the second highest percentage for an Irish catcher since 1996. O'Toole threw out 40.7% (24 of 59) of runners in 2001.
Notre Dame ranked sixth in the BIG EAST in fielding percentage (.962) and fifth in fewest errors (82) in 2007, but vaulted into first in fielding (.973) and second in fewest errors (59, 23 fewer than '07) in 2008. The Irish led the BIG EAST Conference in fielding percentage and fewest errors in league games only. In fact, the .973 fielding percentage topped the previous school record of .972 set during the 2006 campaign. The Irish also turned 65 double plays, which was the third-most in school history. Sean Gaston and Cameron McConnell, the two catchers to start games for Notre Dame in 2008, each committed just two passed balls.
Sikes was an assistant at James Madison in the 2007 season and helped instruct the Dukes hitters while working directly with the catchers, the position he played at Liberty University. He had been promoted to recruiting coordinator at JMU three weeks before accepting the invitation to join Dave Schrage's staff at Notre Dame.
Sikes previously was the recruiting coordinator, hitting coach and catcher's coach at Young Harris (Ga.) College in 2005-06, helping guide a Mountain Lions team that racked up 48 wins while being ranked eighth among the nation's junior college teams.
His first coaching position came in the fall of 2004, when Sikes was named the assistant coach for Independence (Kan.) Community College and worked primarily with the team's hitters, catchers and outfielders. After the fall season at Independence, Sikes earned an assistant coaching position at Nicholls State (La.) University and went on to work with the team's catchers while assisting with the hitters during the 2005 spring season. He helped Nicholls State player John Brummet make the transition from third base to catcher, with that position switch helping land Brummet a professional contract with the Oakland Athletics' organization (he went on to be promoted to AAA in his first professional season).
From 2005-07, Sikes worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates as an associate Major League Baseball scout, with his coverage area including Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Sikes was a four-year letterman at Liberty in Lynchburg, Va., helping lead the Flames to a pair of Big South Conference championships and two NCAA Regional appearances. During his career as the Flames catcher, Sikes threw out better than 50 percent of attempted base-stealers. He started behind the plate for the team's win over Seton Hall in the South Atlantic Regional, producing the school's first NCAA Tournament victory in any sport.
During his senior season, Liberty finished among the nation's top-10 leaders in nearly every offensive statistic - as Sikes was part of a team that hit .337 with 86 home runs, 30 triples, 151 doubles and 111 stolen bases. Twenty-four of his Liberty teammates went on to careers in professional baseball.
Sikes earned his undergraduate degree from Liberty in 2002 and went on to earn a master's degree in health and physical education from Emporia (Kan.) State University in 2006.