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Baseball: Doyle leads Irish by example

Chris Allen | Wednesday, March 2, 2011

As a kid who grew up in Chicago with parents, aunts and uncles who have attended Notre Dame for generations, Irish senior shortstop and second-year captain Mick Doyle is truly living out one of his dreams.

“My dad and my whole family are all about Notre Dame, pretty big on Notre Dame. I’ve been coming to football games here since I could walk, and probably even before then,” Doyle said. “I was always a huge Notre Dame fan. If you would have told me that [I would play here] when I was a kid I wouldn’t have believed it. I think it probably makes my mom proudest out of anybody, to be honest. She still can’t believe it.”

Doyle grew up as a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. Despite the organization’s oft-talked about “wait ‘til next year” mentality, Doyle said he grew up idolizing a Cubs role model who played middle infield, before looking up to a Yankee infielder.

“I was always a shortstop growing up. It’s funny, the first game that I played at another position was at third base the first game of my freshman year here,” Doyle said. “I’m a huge Cubs fan, so [former Cubs second baseman] Ryne Sandberg was a huge role model for me.

“His career was winding down, and [Yankees shortstop] Derek Jeter was on the rise, so I started following his example. Jeter’s a winner man, and that’s what it’s all about.”

As a captain last season under former Irish coach Dave Schrage, as well as this season under newly-hired coach Mik Aoki, Doyle and fellow co-captain, senior Brian Dupra, are charged with ushering in a new era of Irish baseball. Doyle said the attitude around the program has changed already.

“I think the energy level is a lot higher around here,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more focus. It’s definitely a lot different — it’s hard to put into words.”

How well the team rebounds from a disappointing 22-32 record in 2010 will likely determine Doyle’s success as a captain. Doyle said he adjusted his leadership style to help create a winning atmosphere on the team this season.

“Last year I was a captain as well. It was a little bit different,”

Doyle said. “I think I got away from my teammates a little bit. This year the focus is just on being one of the guys. I think it’s more important to have the guy next to you’s back. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s not necessarily what you say — it’s all about your actions. People listen to you if you do things the right way.”

In his final season in an Irish uniform, Doyle looks to pick up his offensive numbers from where they left off at the end of the 2009 season, a year in which the then-sophomore hit .327 with 31 runs batted in. Doyle’s numbers dipped in 2010 as he hit .228 and drove in 22 runs in 180 at-bats. Though he said he has not been happy with his initial offensive numbers, including a .167 batting average during Notre Dame’s 3-3 start, Doyle’s goals for the season sounded eerily like something his role model Jeter would say.

“I just want to win,” Doyle said with a smirk. “That’s all that matters.”