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Recapping the week in New York

| Friday, December 27, 2013

NEW YORK — When Notre Dame was considering its bowl options, many of the team’s leaders were hoping for a warm-weather destination, where snow and cold temperatures wouldn’t be factors.

But while the Big Apple did give the Irish a white Christmas, the city has also rolled out the red carpet to give the team a week to remember.

“This trip has been awesome,” graduate student tackle Zack Martin said. “I knew it would be fun, but I didn’t think it would be this fun.”

After Notre Dame’s loss at Stanford to conclude the regular season, Irish coach Brian Kelly gave his team time off to relax and focus on closing out the semester academically. But since arriving in New York on Monday night, the team has had a nonstop itinerary around the New York area. The team took a bus tour of the city, visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, had Christmas Eve dinner in Little Italy and saw the Rockettes’ Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall. Kelly and the team’s captains even got to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Sandwiched into all that were preparations for Saturday’s game, which have sent the Irish to multiple practice facilities in the area.

It’s enough to make your head spin, but Martin said that the team has enjoyed its whirlwind week.

“We got the opportunity to practice at the Giants’ and Jets’ facilities and got to visit one of the most historic cities in the world,” Martin said. “It can be hectic to prepare, but when you sit down and let it all sink in, it’s a lot of fun.”

The bowl’s location has been especially ideal for Notre Dame’s local products like graduate student linebacker — and New Jersey native — Carlo Calabrese. Calabrese, who estimates he’ll have 60-80 friends and family in the stands Saturday, said he has enjoyed showing his teammates around the city he roamed growing up.

“I came to the city a lot as a kid,” he said. “Especially around Christmas time, everyone wants to come to New York, and my family always came in around this time. It’s been a great time for the guys.”

The capstone of the experience will be Saturday’s bowl game, which will be Notre Dame’s second game in the new Yankee Stadium. The Irish opened the stadium to football with their Shamrock Series win over Army in 2010 and are looking forward to playing once again in Yankee Stadium.

“Growing up, if you told me I’d be playing football in Yankee Stadium one day I’d have told you you were crazy,” senior quarterback Tommy Rees said. “To be able to play here twice is a pretty cool experience.”

And while the game may not have the gravity or hype surrounding Notre Dame’s January trip to the BCS National Championship, Kelly said this year’s bowl game has provided a great experience for his team and its fans.

“We’ve gotten an understanding of the tradition of this great city and Yankee Stadium and how many supporters we have here,” Kelly said. “We also have, in the Pinstripe Bowl, the backing of the Yankees organization … which has put together a bowl game that — I can say after experiencing BCS bowls — is as well run as any.”

Contact Jack Hefferon at [email protected]

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