Nov. 19, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
The dedication of the Charles and Marie Doherty Batting Cages – featuring a special honorary Monogram presentation to head coach Deanna Gumpf - highlighted a landmark Saturday morning for the Notre Dame softball program on the grounds of Melissa Cook Stadium.
More than 100 members of the Irish softball family attended the special ceremony emceed by deputy athletics director Bill Scholl (’79). In addition to Gumpf and assistant coaches Kris Ganeff (’99) and Lizzy Lemire (’01), attendees included athletics director Jack Swarbrick (’76), vice president for University relations Lou Nanni (’84, ’88), Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter and Club president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77).
Former All-Americans Jarrah Myers (’02), Megan Ciolli (’05) joined Nicole deFau (’04), Heather Booth (’06), Sarah Smith (’08), Stephanie Mola (’09) and a host of other softball Monogram winners who returned to campus for the event.
Paul and Linda Demo, the parents of former softball student-athlete Melissa Cook, provided the funding for the state-of-the-art batting cage project and were on hand to bless the facility with athletics department chaplain Rev. Paul Doyle, C.S.C. (’65).
Cook, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate, was one of four people involved in a March 2002construction accident at the John Hancock Building in Chicago that claimed their lives. The Demos contributed a considerable portion of the settlementfrom the accident to the Notre Dame athletics department to construct Melissa Cook Stadium in 2008 and have remained fervent supporters of the Notre Damesoftball program over the past 10 years.
The batting cages are named after Linda Demo’s parents – Charles and Marie Doherty – who attended numerous Notre Dame softball games during Cook’s career with the Irish in 1991 and 1992.
“For all of us associated with the softball program who’ve come to know Paul and Linda as a surrogate mother and father, we are richly blessed to have them as part of this community,” Nanni said. “In addition to Melissa Cook Stadium, to add these beautiful new batting cages, and to name them after Melissa’s grandparents, is just something that continues a story that is deeply moving, humbling, and inspiring to all of us.”
The Demos have been more than just supporters of the Notre Dame softball team over the past 10 years, and Gumpf took to the podium to praise the couple for the love and kindness they bring to the program and its student-athletes.
“We are the beneficiaries of these wonderful facility gifts, but the biggest gift they’ve given us is their laughter, their smiles, their love, their wisdom and their strength,” Gumpf said. “Every single one of us is a better person because of Paul and Linda.”
Junior infielder Kathryn Lux, who wears the #22 jersey that Cook once sported for the Irish, commented on how the program’s facilities have helped the program achieve unprecedented success.
“As student-athletes, this stadium has given us the opportunity to feel like a big-time program,” Lux said. “Those bricks and that steel helped change the expectations we had for ourselves. Look at the championships we’ve won and the records we’ve broken. Melissa Cook Stadium and what it represents has helped bring us closer together as a unit. That stadium is not a house - it’s our home.”
Following the blessing of the batting cages, Linda Demo thanked the softball student-athletes past and present for creating such a welcoming environment for her family.
“When we show up and walk into that dugout, we get hugs and love from those girls like you can’t believe – and that’s what makes us get up in the morning,” Demo said. “The love we receive from everybody - it’s one in a million opportunity and I want to thank you for all that you’ve given to us.”
Swarbrick congratulated the softball team on the impressive new addition to its stadium and remarked on how the batting cages represent a potential catalyst for the Notre Dame program.
“I think this is a program on the verge of taking the next step,” Swarbrick said. “You have to have facilities that allow you to become great, and thanks to Paul and Linda, you have those facilities. Now, you have to finish this facility because it isn’t finished yet - what it needs is a national championship banner.”
After the formal program of speakers concluded, Swarbrick welcomed Hunter and Nussbaum to the podium for a special ceremony.
“There’s some things the Monogram Club can do and some things it can’t do,” Nussbaum said. “One thing we can certainly do is honor a head coach, and the leadership and the love that Coach Gumpf has shown to her players and to her family isjust extraordinary. With that in mind, we’re proud to welcome Deanna as the newest member of the Monogram Club.”
The honorary Monogram came as a complete surprise to the emotional Gumpf, who was presented with a scroll and a Monogram jacket by Hunter.
“Notre Dame is a very, very special place and I look out and see the girls and the alumni and I am so lucky to have you guys in my life,” Gumpf said. “I always say Notre Dame is such a special place because it makes everybody better who comes here, but it’s the people who walk out of here who make each other better.”
Through only 10 seasons as the head softball coach at Notre Dame, Deanna Gumpf has already established herself as one of the premiere college coaches in the nation.
Under her tutelage, the Irish have claimed four BIG EAST Conference Tournament titles and 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament. Even more, Notre Dame staked the BIG EAST's regular-season championship during her first four seasons on the bench (2001-04) to extend its dominance over league opponents and hoisted the regular-season hardware once again in 2010 and 2011.
Gumpf, the leader of the 2002 and 2004 BIG EAST Coaching Staffs of the Year, is the all-time winningest coach in Notre Dame softball history, and her record of 425-176-1 (.706) is the highest victory average of any BIG EAST skipper.
One of Gumpf’s former players, Cass Hoag (’02), closed the program by thanking the head coach for all she’s done for the program and its players, and acknowledged that wearing the Notre Dame Monogram is something she can now share with the players to whom she’s meant so much.
“For those of us who have been blessed to have Deanna Gumpf as our coach, we recognize the value she places on the importance of earning and wearing the Monogram of the University of Notre Dame,” Hoag said. “For that, there is no more appropriate honor can we bestow on her. In the awarding of this monogram, we recognize the inordinate commitment, dedication and sacrifices of our recipient who cherishes the very name of the University that adorns this jacket. Congratulations on an honor that you rightfully now share with the rest of us.”
-- ND --