Oct. 11, 2007
Notre Dame baseball volunteer assistant coach Graham Sikes is the next to stop by und.com with a practice report update, to be followed over the next few days by assistant coaches Sherard Clinkscales and Scott Lawler (in advance of the Blue-Gold intrasquad series, to be held on Oct. 16-18). Sikes joined the Irish staff in June, after spending the previous season at James Madison University.
Sikes was an assistant coach at JMU 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 catchers' 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 2005-2007, 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 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.
NOTRE DAME BASEBALL 2007 FALL PRACTICE REPORT #2 (Graham Sikes; Oct. 11)
"Hello, this is Graham Sikes, the newest member of the Fighting Irish baseball staff. It's been a whirlwind since coming aboard in late July, but I am very excited and honored to be part of the Irish! I came to Notre Dame via James Madison University and have experience working with three other college baseball programs. Moving from Virginia allowed me to get a little closer to family and friends in Kansas and Chicago, which has been an added bonus.
"During the past three months, I've had the opportunity to be involved in a couple fall camps as well as work daily with our catchers.
"Sean Gaston is a fifth-year player who is coming off shoulder surgery and is a great leader for us. Sean has been doing a great job in practice and has been a leader since day one - doing everything asked of him and more. Before arriving at Notre Dame I worked with some coaches who had coached Sean in the Cape Cod League and they all said the same thing about him being such a solid player. Although he hasn't had a lot of opportunities to catch this fall, Sean has been just that - solid. He has great hands behind the plate and handles the pitchers extremely well. With his leadership and knowledge, it's like having another coach on the field.
"Chris Soriano is another senior whose leadership at the position is very valuable. Chris comes early and stays late and has a tremendous work ethic. He has put a lot of work in this fall in improving his blocking and throwing skills. His knowledge of the game and pitching staff is very helpful for our new catchers and he has done a great job working with the pitching staff, especially the young guys.
"Matt Scioscia is a freshman who brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the catching corps. Matt has done a great job this fall of making the most of his opportunities. He has worked hard on his arm strength and receiving this fall. Matt also has done a nice job handling the pitchers and shown that he can handle the bat.
"Matt Katich, another freshman, is a big guy with a strong arm. He has worked hard this fall on his throwing, receiving and footwork. Matt is another guy who comes early and stays late while working on his game.
"Cameron McConnell has shown a strong arm this fall, with the ability to handle the pitchers. Cameron has been working hard to polish up his mechanics behind the plate and become consistent with all his throws. He has shown signs of turning the corner with his consistency defensively and will continue to work hard throughout the fall and winter.
"The catchers are doing a lot of footwork and transfer drills right now, because I think everybody can get better at those fundamentals. The freshman catchers had about three weeks to experience the speed of the game while learning the pitchers, defensive calls and responsibilities - and things now are starting to slow down for them. There is a great dynamic in having the two seniors along with three freshmen. It makes for a very competitive atmosphere and will help our guys get better.
"I also will have the opportunity to work with the outfielders and look forward to working with the athletic group we have at that position. Veterans such as Ross Brezovsky, A.J. Pollock, Brayden Ashdown and Billy Boockford have done a good job in practice and compete at a high level.
"Practices have been going well and our team has played some very competitive scrimmages. Our upperclassmen have done a good job of showing the freshmen what it takes and how to go about their business in being a college baseball player.
"The intensity and competition at practice is great. The leadership of the team has been very good and hopefully will transfer right over into the offseason drills and weight workouts.
"Coach Schrage, coach Lawler and coach Clinkscales have made my transition an easy one, which sometimes isn't so easy. Before arriving in South Bend, I heard a lot about Notre Dame from people who played or coached here and they all said the same thing, `It's hard to explain ... you just have to experience it. It is a great place.' After three months, I have experienced it and they were right. It is a great place to work.
"I am looking forward to finishing our fall practice strong with our Blue-Gold Series. I will be coaching the Blue team and feel that we have a very even match-up with the Gold team. We have a couple more scrimmages before the Series and also recently had the chance to find out how much faster our players have become with everybody's favorite ... the timed mile!
"Thank you for your support of Notre Dame Baseball - and Go Irish!"
- Coach Sikes