42nd round pick John Axford RHP University of Notre Dame
Fireballing senior hoping for return to action after missing all of '04 season while recovering from "Tommy John" reconstructive elbow surgery (Dec., 2003) ... showed tremendous attitude and work ethic during rehabilitation ... expected to make full recovery for '05 season ... will have the option of applying for a fifth year of eligibility in '06 ... tireless worker who leads by example and is expected to be key veteran for '05 staff ... made big strides in his delivery and throwing from a more controlled arm-slot during limited '04 fall and winter workouts ... hoping to follow success stories of recent ND pitchers Danny Tamayo and Grant Johnson, who both returned from injury with a high level of production and success ... Tamayo missed sophomore season in '99 (elbow) before returning in '00 and then having a 1st team all-BIG EAST season in '01 (when he was a 10th-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals) ... Johnson also missed his sophomore season ('03; shoulder surgery) and was eased back into action during impressive '04 season (1st team all-BIG EAST) before signing with Chicago Cubs as 2nd-round pick ... rated by Baseball America/Perfect Game as No. 145 draft-eligible college prospect for '05 season ... BA's season preview for the '05 season listed him as the BIG EAST's No. 6 overall prospect (4th among draft-eligible players), behind St. John's closer Craig Hansen, Pittsburgh 2B Jim Negrych ('06 draft-eligible), ND sophomore RHP Jeff Manship ('06), St. John's RHP Anthony Varvaro and Rutgers OF Johnny Defendis ... two ND juniors - OF Craig Cooper (60th) and closer Ryan Doherty (90th) - also were on the Sept. '04 PG/BA prospect list (they were not included on BA preview list of league's top-10 prospects) ... made some major progress in mechanics and command during '03 fall workouts, prior to injury ... known for electric set of pitches, with a fastball that has pushed into high-90s and hard-breaking curveball ... has classic pitcher's body (6-6, 190 pounds) ... compiled strong freshman season (3.95 ERA, 5-2 record, 64 strikeouts in 70.2 innings) that was overshadowed by huge postseason wins from his classmates Johnson and Chris Niesel - before starting 9-0 in '03 ... able to induce timely double-play groundballs ... opted to join Notre Dame program, despite being selected by Seattle Mariners in 7th round of '01 Major League draft ... projectable pitcher whose talent ceiling played large part in high draft status ... first two seasons with the Irish included 4.13 ERA and 14-5 record in 31 appearance (25 starts, 133 Ks, 109 walks, 122 hits, .238 opp. batting, 21 wild pitches, 11 hit batters in 141.2 IP) ... one of five Notre Dame '02 freshmen invited to play in prestigious Cape Cod League ... had challenging '02 summer with Hyannis Mets (7.17, 0-3, 12 GP/2 GS, SV, 21.1 IP, 21 H, 30 BB, 25 Ks) but went on to be rated by BA as No. 29 prospect in '03 CCL ... trained with Canadian National Team in summer of '03 before joining CCL's Cotuit Kettleers (1-0, 9.00, 7 GP, 9 IP, 4 H, 16 BB, 8 Ks) ... winning pitcher for Gold in decisive third game (3-2) of '01 Blue-Gold fall intrasquad series (5 IP, 2 R, 5 H, BB, 2 WP, 5 Ks) ... 17th Notre Dame pitcher ever to post 12-plus Ks in a game (12, vs. Western Michigan in '03) and 4th to do so since 1980, joining Darin Schmalz (`96) and current Major Leaguers Brad Lidge (`98) and Aaron Heilman (three times, '00-'01) - with Niesel and Tom Thornton adding 12-K games in '04 ... joined fellow RHP Tyler Jones as ND's two signees in '01 spring period ... latest in string of talented "late signees" for the Irish, with that group including pitchers Lidge and Tim Kalita and position players Jeff Wagner and Brant Ust ... made up for lack of varsity baseball at his high school by playing with Port Dover club, Team Ontario and Team Canada ... gained valuable experience playing throughout Canada, the U.S. and Dominican Republic ... third player from outside the 50 states (second Ontario native) among 800-plus all-time ND baseball monogram winners ... 2B and Ottawa native Robert Hoag lettered with the '39 Irish team while CF Joseph Ridge (Margarita, Canal Zone) lettered from '51-'53 ... posted 3.28 GPA in '04 spring semester (3.20 in fall of `04).
AS A JUNIOR: Missed entire 2004 season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in December of 2003.
AS A SOPHOMORE: Turned in impressive start to 2003 season, posting 9-0 record and 2.21 ERA before late struggles ... tied Niesel for team lead in victories (9-3), 2nd in strikeouts (69) and games started (13), 3rd in innings (71.0) ... slipped to 4.31 final ERA (50 BB, 63 H, .245 opp. batting, 14 WP, 5 HB in 15 GP) ... his average of 8.75 Ks per 9 IP ranked 2nd on staff ... tied Niesel for team lead with 26 Ks "looking" ... ranked 4th on staff for lowest opp. batting with runners on (.238) while his average of 8.0 hits allowed per 9 IP was 5th-best ... opened with win over Newman, at ASU (6 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, K; 15-5) ... followed with strong no-decision vs. Wake Forest at Minnesota Metrodome (7 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 2 DPs; 2-1 in 13) ... posted wins in Jacksonville over Navy (5 IP, 6 H, 3 R/2 ER, BB, 7 Ks; 7-3) and Creighton (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 Ks; 10-3) ... continued string of eight straight winning starts at Villanova (5 IP, 2 H, R, 4 BB, 7 Ks; 3-2) and at home vs. Georgetown (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R/1 ER, 5 BB, 8 Ks; 13-3) ... set Eck Stadium record for strikeouts by an ND pitcher, punching out 12 Western Michigan batters in 12-1 win (7 IP, R, 6 H, 104 pitches) ... kept rolling with home wins over Central Michigan (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 4 Ks; 8-3), Seton Hall (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 2 Ks; 9-3) and UConn (6 IP, 4 H, R, 6 BB, 6 Ks; 11-4), before losses to potent West Virginia squad and other top BIG EAST squads Virginia Tech and Rutgers ... pitched in relief at BIG EAST Tournament, vs. Rutgers (2.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R/4 ER, 7 BB, 3 Ks; 11-15).
AS A FRESHMAN: Rode rollercoaster 2002 season that ended with 3.95 ERA and 5-2 record in 17 appearances ... five of 12 starts came as No. 1 starter of a tournament or series ... totaled 64 Ks (third on staff) in 70.2 innings (59 BB, 59 H, 7 WP, 6 HB) ... held opponents to .231 batting, best among Irish pitchers with 25-plus innings ... touched for just one home run (324 batters) ... served up 18 double-play balls (most on staff), with 1.53 ratio of groundouts to flyouts (second-best) ... averaged 8.15 Ks and allowed just 7.01 hits (second-best on staff) per 9 IP ... made first appearance in relief at New Orleans (4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 6 BB, K; 7-8) ... had six Ks to beat Creighton in first start, as all-tournament pick at Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio (6-2; 7 IP, 4 H, 2 UER) ... racked up 9 Ks to win 12-3 game at Georgetown (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB) ... added another BIG EAST win vs. St. John's (6.1 IP, 3 H, R, 6 BB, 5 Ks; 4-1), followed by no-decision vs. Pittsburgh (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks; 12-2) and 9-4 win at Seton Hall (7.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 7 Ks) ...overcame 5 walks, 3 hit batters and poor defense (3 UER) for solid start vs. Arizona State (4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 Ks; 9-4) ... picked up key 8-1 win over Villanova (4.2 IP, 3 H, R, 7 BB, K) ...logged 3.0 innings as starter in decisive 3-2 win over Rutgers at BIG EAST Tournament (3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 Ks) ... had impressive 4.2-inning stint to keep Irish in game during 12-5 loss at Florida State in game-2 of NCAA Super Regional (3 H, R, 4 BB, 5 Ks) ... FSU's famous fan section, "The Animals," unknowingly serenaded him with their customary rendition of "Oh, Canada" in 7th inning ... pitched in season-ending 5-3 loss to Stanford at College World Series (1.1 IP, 2 BB, K).
PREP & PERSONAL: One of Canada's top prospects while playing for club and national teams (Assumption College Prep does not sponsor baseball) ... ranked by BA and Toronto Star as Canada's top prep prospect for '01 Major League draft, before being selected in 7th round by Seattle Mariners ... his four-year career stats with Port Dover, Team Ontario and Team Canada: 37-12, 1.88 ERA in 278 IP (432 Ks, 173 BB; 14 Ks, 5.6 BB per 9 IP; 2.5 K-to-BB ratio) ... combined '01 stats: 11-2, 1.31, 124 Ks, 42 BB in 75.6 IP ... went 10-1 in '00 with Port Dover Midgets and Team Ontario (1.46, 68 IP, 118 Ks, 45 BB) ... posted 10-3 combined record and 1.24 ERA in '99 with Port Dover and Team Ontario Jr.'s (65 IP, 101 Ks, 46 BB) ... split 12 decisions with Port Dover Bantams in '98 (3.52, 69 IP, 89 Ks, 40 BB) ... invited to Team Canada Spring Training ('01) ... member of '01 Team Canada Youth Team ... posted save with Team Canada ('01) at Disney Sports Center in Orlando, for games vs. pro rookie-level teams ... won decision vs. Team USA during summer of '01 (Joplin, Mo.) ... competed in Dominican Republic vs. teams from Dominican Summer League, posting 1-1 record ... member of Team Ontario 18 that placed 5th at '01 NABF World Series ... played on 2000 Team Ontario squad that claimed bronze at Canadian National Championships and silver at NABF World Series ... closing pitcher for Team Ontario in wins that clinched '99 and '00 Provincial Championships ... participated in Chicago White Sox Area Code tryouts ... invited to 2000 Team One Showcase (at ND) ... helped lead Port Dover to three Provincial titles ... member of 2000 Port Dover team that was named "Team of the Year" by Baseball Ontario ... four-time all-star at Southern Counties All-Star Game ... Port Dover's '98 minor player of the year ... participated in high school volleyball, badminton and track and field ... set school high jump record as a junior ... played hockey for 12 years as a defenseman (until sophomore year) ... honor student and member of student government cabinet ... born April 1, 1983, in Simcoe, Ontario ... son of Brian and Vera Axford ... full name is John Berton Axford ... a film, television and theatre major, enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters.
June 8, 2005
Notre Dame senior righthanded pitcher John Axford (Port Dover, Ontario) was selected in Wednesday's second and final day of the 2005 Major League draft, as a 42nd-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds. Axford joins senior first baseman Matt Edwards - a 16th-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies - as the latest members of Notre Dame's top-ranked 2002 freshman class who have been selected in the MLB draft (three others were drafted and signed as juniors, in 2004).
The 11-year Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame now has produced 42 players who have been drafted or signed free-agent contracts.
Axford was a 7th-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2001 MLB draft before opting to play for Notre Dame. He ranked among the top Irish pitchers in the 2002 and '03 seasons but was sidelined by an elbow injury for the entire 2004 season. The 6-foot-6, 190-pounder was eased back into action this season but suffered a midseason setback due to a shoulder injury, ultimately logging just 3.0 innings in five appearances during the 2005 season.
The Canadian National Team product owns a 4.48 career ERA and 14-6 record in three seasons of action with the Irish, totaling 137 strikeouts, 118 walks and 125 hits allowed (.238 opponent batting average) in 144.2 innings and 36 appearances, with 26 starts. He won his first nine decisions of the 2003 season and owned a 2.21 season ERA at that point before finishing '03 as the staff's co-leader in victories (9-3), also ranking second on the team in strikeouts (69) and third in innings pitched (71.0; plus a 4.31 final ERA, 50 BB and 63 H/.245).
Axford also was a key member of the Irish staff during the 2002 College World Series season, posting a 3.95 ERA and 5-2 record while making 12 starts in his 17 appearances (70.2 IP, 64 Ks, 59 BB, 59 H/.231). Current major-leaguer Aaron Heilman (.198, in '98) and Larry Mohs (.201, in '94) are the only Notre Dame freshmen to compile a better opponent batting average than Axford's .231 (since '91) while his 70.2 innings rank as the 6th-most ever by an ND freshman.
His junior season in 2003 included a 12-strikeout game vs. Western Michigan, setting the Eck Stadium record for most Ks by a Notre Dame pitcher.
Axford pitched in the prestigious Cape Cod League during the summers of 2002 (Hyannis Mets) and 2003 (Cotuit Kettleers), when he also trained with the Canadian National Team.
Edwards - who missed most of the '02 season due to a broken leg - and Axford both have a year of eligibility remaining, due to their respective seasons lost to injury.
Three of their classmates were drafted and signed following the 2004 season: RHP Grant Johnson (2nd round, Chicago Cubs), third baseman Matt Macri (5th round, Colorado Rockies) and RHP Chris Niesel (9th round, Cleveland Indians).
Johnson is slated to make his professional debut on Thursday for the Peoria Chiefs of the single-A Midwest League. That game will be played at Peoria's O'Brien Field versus a Benoit Snappers team that features one of Johnson's former Notre Dame teammates, catcher Javi Sanchez, who recently was named to the Midwest League all-star team.
Axford is the first Notre Dame player in more than 35 years to be drafted by the Reds, dating back to the 1969 season when RHP Nick Furlong was Cincinnati's 5th-round selection. Three years earlier, the Reds had picked Notre Dame LHP Dan McGinn in the 1st round of the 1966 January secondary phase draft. Former ND catcher Mark Mapes was a 50th-round pick of the Reds out of high school while former Irish football quarterback Carlyle Holiday was Cincinnati's 44th-round pick in 2003 (he never played baseball at ND and never signed with the Reds).
Edwards is the first active Notre Dame baseball player to be selected by the Phillies, in the 41-year history of the MLB draft. Incoming shortstop Steve Verduzco was a 5th-round pick of the Phillies in 1991 before joining the Notre Dame program.