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Samardzija picks baseball, inks 5-year deal with Cubs

Joe Meixell | Monday, January 22, 2007

Notre Dame senior Jeff Samardzija has chosen to pursue a career in professional baseball rather than enter the NFL draft, according to a statement released Friday.

“I will devote my full time and attention to professional baseball,” Samardzija said in the statement. “I cannot lie. Leaving football will not be easy. But playing baseball is my first love. It is what I want to do for a living.”

The former Irish pitcher and wide receiver signed a five-year contract with the Chicago Cubs reportedly worth $10 million and will report to spring training in Mesa, Ariz. with the rest of the Cubs pitchers and catchers Feb. 14. The deal includes a $2.5 million signing bonus and club options for 2012 and 2013 that would make the deal’s total value equal to $16.5 million.

“This is a dream come true for a kid who grew up in Northern Indiana looking up the road at this great city and its loyal fans,” Samardzija said in the statement. “I feel very comfortable that this is exactly where I belong.”

Samardzija was drafted by Chicago last summer and played for Cubs minor league affiliates in Boise, Idaho, and Peoria, Ill., during the 2006 season.

He is expected to begin the 2007 season with the Single-A Daytona Cubs.

Samardzija played three seasons for the Notre Dame baseball team, compiling a 21-6 record with a 3.82 ERA in 50 appearances.

On the football field, where he was initially recruited to play, Samardzija led the Irish in catches and set single season school records with 1,249 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2005. He was also named a consensus All-American.

In his senior year in 2006, Samardzija again led the team in catches with 78, this time for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I will always love football,” Samardzija said in the statement. “My four years at Notre Dame – playing for the Fighting Irish – were amazing. I could not have asked for more from my teammates, our fans, and our coaches.”

In his statement, Samardzija thanked Irish football coach Charlie Weis and former Irish baseball coach Paul Mainieri for their “understanding and cooperation.”

“The two of them figured out a way for me to live out my dream of playing two sports in college,” he said.