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Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame Baseball | Shawn Stiffler Notebook

July 14, 2022

Notre Dame's new baseball coach Shawn Stiffler spoke on Thursday afternoon inside the Schivarelli Lounge. 

On why Notre Dame was the perfect fit:
"So why the University of Notre Dame? To me, it starts with this. This university is one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country. To have an opportunity to represent a brand like that and to be able to walk into living rooms and meet people with that type of brand and type of opportunity was one I felt was really special and something I wanted to be part of.

"It comes down to these players. Watching them over the last three weeks of their season and journey, I don't think there was a college baseball coach or college baseball fan that wasn't cheering for Notre Dame in some way or another. The way they handled themselves, the way they communicated with each other, the way they played for each other, served each other and the way they handled themselves in the biggest spotlight - we were just talking out there and they were playing that highlight video, they're still getting chills. 

"That will happen for a lifetime for these guys. To be a part of them and come in and let them affect me and influence me, it's something I wanted to take and jumped at the chance.

"The opportunity to recruit and develop the type of players this university is going to attract. Notre Dame will attract the highest academic, athletic and strong-willed men to play in one of the best baseball conferences in the country. 

“I wanted to stretch myself. I wanted to work with those types of like-minded people and I wanted to be a part of that.”

On what the Notre Dame program will look like under his leadership:
"First, this program belongs to the players. It does not belong to me. It belongs to the players in the program currently and it belongs to those who came before. I will never be the centerpiece of this program or the most important part. In fact, I hope after today, it's the last time that I am the focus of the program. 

"This program will be about development. It will be at the front of everything we do. We will develop the man and get him ready to go out into the world. We're going to develop the student. This degree changes the world and we have to have these guys ready to go out with it. We need to develop the leader. When they get out into the world, they have to be ready to influence and impact others. 

"If we do those three things, the last piece, which is developing the player will honestly come quite easy. We're going to base everything off of the development. 

"The goal of this program will be to get everyone who is involved in it to reach the best version of themselves and to reach whatever goals they have.

"This program will be about service and hope. We're going to serve each other. We're going to serve the University of Notre Dame. We're going to serve the South Bend community. I'm a firm believer when things aren't going well, look beside you and help the person next to you. That will put you in the right direction and we will do that.

"We have to bring hope to everyone we meet. When we walk out of the room or walk out of the stadium, win or lose, I want people to say those were men of hope and brought great joy in what they were doing."  

On how his team will look on the field:
"I'll never concede on pitching and defense. We're going to pitch and defense. Over the last three years of my evaluation of this program, it's the biggest jump this program has made. Elite defenders, elite arms and then we're able to control the side of the ball we have control over. We will always pitch and always defend. We will not concede on strikes and will not concede on being able to catch the baseball. 

"Offensively, we want to be versatile. We want to lengthen our lineup. We're going to look to shorten and lengthen the field. We want people who come watch us play not to know where the top of our lineup is or where the bottom is. We're searching for balance and we're looking for guys who can control their at-bats." 

On what his staff will look like: 
"Our coaches and staff will be relationship-based educators. Everybody in this program will be a lifetime learner, including myself. I will never be the smartest guy in the room. I will surround myself with coaches, support staff and with players that will push each other, stretch each other and continue to learn to find the best way to help us win baseball games and championships." 

On program momentum:
"I'm very aware of where this program has been over the last three years. I'm very aware of walking into a challenge like that. I'm very aware of what this university means of how prestigious it is. The tradition and the history. 

"Some would call it challenges. I don't see it that way. I see attending the great university in the country, getting this degree, playing in one of the best baseball conferences in the country with elite athletes is what we are going to sell. That is going to be our strength. Everything people will look at that's possibly something that could hold us back or not get us over the top is what we will sell. That is what we're looking for. 

"Those are the type of like-minded people we will bring in and embrace. We will use that as an opportunity and that's what makes this place great. 

In my mind, this is the greatest university in the country and I'm thankful to be a small part of it. I'm thankful to be your baseball coach." 

On what questions the players had for him during the interview process: 
"I met with Jack Zyska. We were able to have breakfast with him. I will tell you he did such an unbelievable job representing these guys and bringing their questions to me. 

"I think the first part was how are you going to keep us where we're at. One thing that was evident throughout this and every time I talked to these guys on Zoom and spoke to them so far on the phone and with Jack, they do not feel like they're finished. This was not a one-time thing for them. They feel like they have more to prove and have the core group to do that. They feel like they are willing to do the work and have done the work. 

"I explained to them they are right. They are the ones that did the work and heavy lifting. Those games are won by them. 

"It was really what are we going to do to keep us where we're at and what was my approach on that. From there, there were some details on style of play and what my vision was, which is what I explained right there. You get into analytics and technology, but really just an overview of what my style is and how I was going to be. 

"I'm smart enough to understand this program is in a great place. I'm not looking to come in and make drastic changes. Like Jack (Swarbrick) said, my style of play that I appreciate is what you've done over the last couple of years. I'm just here to add to that and get feedback from them and continue to put them in a position to be successful." 

On Notre Dame being his dream job:
"I grew up a Roman Catholic. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where you watched Notre Dame football on Saturday and you went to church on Sunday. I still remember Ron Powlus running around. 

"We were very, very happy in Richmond, Virginia. There are very few jobs that I think I would have left for, but when the caller ID said South Bend, the hair on the back of my head stood up. This is a place that I've always dreamed about and a place that's always been in the front of my thoughts. This is something different for me." 

On maintaining the roster and recruiting classes:
"I'm on the phone constantly. Unfortunately, you have the current players, this year's incoming class, the 2023s and 2024s, you're looking at almost 100 people. We're trying to catch up. Right now, I'm by myself, to be quite honest. 

"Every player and every recruit, and rightfully so, feels like they're the one and the most special piece. and they should. I'm trying to catch up and let those guys know every reason they chose Notre Dame has not changed. 

"The tradition, the university, the degree and the impact it's going to have on your life, it's still out in front of you. I'm going to help be an asset to that. We're very committed to those guys still. The last coaching staff did a phenomenal job. I'm smart enough to realize those players they were recruiting are the caliber of players we want to have here at Notre Dame." 

On hiring a staff:
"Not yet. I'm still working through that and working through that process. Hopefully, we'll get at least one on board in the next couple days and then move from there." 

On what he's learned from playing in big postseason games:
"It tells you you're not that far off. It's just the depth and a few pieces. I've already apologized to these guys - we were in the Starkville regional in 2021 and we warmed Mississippi State up for you. I'm sorry. We got them going. 

"It's just you realize the caliber of player you need. You realize what wins at that level and I believe to win at the level that this group has been at the last couple years and this is why I talk about pitching and defense. You have to win 5-1, 4-2. You have to catch the ball. It's very hard to out slug people and those types of arms late in the season. 

"You have to catch the ball. You also learn that more games are lost than probably won. If you can control what you can control on your side of the baseball, you'll put yourself in an opportunity to have that timely hit. 

"You take from those experiences and you learn from them. I'm an avid note-taker. Every time I go to an NCAA Regional, I try to take notes on how we can do it better logistically, travel-wise and all those things to put stress off the players. 

"You also realize it comes down to the players making pitches, getting timely hits and really at that point when it gets late in the year, you're sitting back and letting everything you've done all year shine through." 

On his view of Notre Dame over the last three years and if he allowed his mind to think about potentially coaching in South Bend:
"Yes. You always allow your mind to go there. You also allow your mind to go, 'Boy, they're doing a really good job and it's going to be hard to follow.' 

"I think everybody looked up and because of the university, the brand and what Notre Dame is, I felt everyone just felt like it was a matter of time until the pieces started fitting together and the timing was right and this place would be an Omaha type of program. 

"I think Coach (Link) Jarrett probably took the job because of those reasons and that's why I'm here as well - to continue to build on that and see those goals through. 

"As far as seeing myself, again, this is one of those programs I just always felt like I would personally fit at if I had the opportunity and I'd really pursue it. You're so busy coaching your own team and you're talking about coming out of COVID, I think we were all trying to survive at that point. Keep your team together and moving forward. 

"We had two really good years just like they had two really good years. To know what that coaching staff had to do to keep that group together, this group together, to have gone through it myself, I tip the cap to any coaches who were able to not only play, but succeed. They did a great job." 

On what VCU's tribute video meant to him:
"Truthfully, it was one of the hardest decisions you could ever make. We were very happy there and comfortable there. What I've seen on Social Media and the way people have reached out to me has been unbelievably humbling. When you're in it, you don't necessarily realize you're having that type of impact or how they feel about you. Those are some of my greatest friends in the world. People I admire and those players did everything we asked them to do for 15 years. We went through some tough times and some tragedy as we lost our head coach and that's how I became head coach. 

"Very difficult. It will sting for a while. Every day as I transition into this role, you get more and more excited. You get to meet these guys and start developing relationships with these guys. You start to meet all of you and see how wonderful this day has been. 

"To have my family walk into that stadium and touch Play Like A Champion - that's something I'm not sure I could have ever dreamed that.

"My name was up on the jumbotron in the football stadium and she says, 'the pressure is on now.' I said, 'yes, they know we're in town.' 

"To leave that job - it's not about the job, it's about the place and it's about this place." 

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