The best sports month of the year is almost over. While many would argue that March is the pinnacle with its bracket-busting March Madness excitement, March actually has, arguably, the two best days of the month – the first two days of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Keep March. The best sports month of the year is October.
Think about it – we dug out our sweatshirts this month for Friday night high school football, college football and the NFL as those sports began to hit their strides. NHL and NBA seasons are getting underway as well, and October sees Major League Baseball Crown its champion with the playoffs culminating in the World Series.
October has it all.
Notre Dame Football is set for a trip to Philadelphia this weekend for a date with Temple (7-0). With the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets in the World Series with Notre Dame (6-1) coming off its bye week, we thought it would be fun to match some Fighting Irish players with their World Series counterparts.
Who matches up with Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer? What about sure-handed receiver Will Fuller? Let’s find out – remembering these are general analogies for entertainment purposes and not direct comparisons.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith and Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain:
These two dynamic players are not only the best athletes on their respective teams, but also the best athletes on the field at any given time on game day. Cain, who didn’t begin playing baseball until his sophomore year of high school, put his raw speed on full display last week when he scored the ALCS-winning run from first base with a no-out single by Eric Hosmer. The All-Star had career-highs of 16 HR and 73 RBIs this season and his speed and power make him versatile enough to bat anywhere in the lineup.
Speed and power define the ultra-versatile Smith as well. The junior has played inside and outside linebacker for the Irish, he can play end and he could probably even go at safety. The 2014 All-American leads the Irish with 56 tackles after recording 179 over his first two seasons. Both Smith and Cain stand 6-foot-2, but Smith (240) has 35 pounds on Cain (205) given his sport is a bit more physical.
Running back C.J. Prosise and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes:
The Mets offense took off when the team acquired Cespedes from Detroit in July. The native of Cuba belted 17 HR and drove-in 44 runs in 57 games for the Mets, which was riding on fumes prior to his arrival, in 57 games. He totaled 35 and 105, respectively, between the two teams. Cespedes has bounced around between four teams in the past two seasons.
Likewise, Prosise has bounced between three positions before landing at running back this season. As Cespedes has with the Mets, Prosise has been a major fuel for the Fighting Irish offense in 2015. The senior has rushed for a team-best 922 yards with 11 touchdowns, while adding 219 receiving yards and another TD.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard:
Kizer lacks the catchy nickname Syndergaard (Thor) sports, but the QB has a lively arm like his baseball counterpart. Both Syndergaard, who was traded for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in 2012, and Kizer have burst on the scene to play vital roles for their teams early in their careers. Syndergaard is 9-7 with 166 strikeouts in 150 innings in his rookie season, while Kizer, who became the starting QB after Malik Zaire was lost to injury early in the season, is just a redshirt freshman. He also has 10 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Both have thrived under intense media scrutiny in two highly scrutinized positions – pitching for the Mets and playing quarterback at Notre Dame.
Linebacker Joe Schmidt and Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist –
What ties these two together is the similarity in how they have worked their way to get where they are. Zobrist had no plans to even play college baseball after high school, but went to a tryout at the urging of his high school coach. He played at NAIA Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais, IL for three years and then transferred to Division One Dallas Baptist to complete his eligibility. Fast-forward 11 years and Zobrist is considered one of the top utility players in the field and one of the most consistent bats at the plate in baseball. Schmidt came to Notre Dame as a walk-on in 2011. He did not play that year and played only sparingly in 2012 before finally earning a scholarship midway through his career. His work ethic, skill and tenacity have turned him into a co-captain for the Irish this season. Schmidt’s 41 tackles are the third-most by an Irish player in 2015.
Wide receiver Will Fuller and Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy:
Murphy binged on home runs (7) during the Mets’ march to the World Series. The same “clutchness” that has become Murphy’s calling=card defines Fuller as well. The junior has been Notre Dame’s go-to receiver the past two seasons. It was never more on display then when Kizer connected on a 40-yard touchdown strike to Fuller with 12 seconds to play to pullout a dramatic comeback win at Virginia on Sept. 12. He has team-highs of 32 receptions for 702 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015.
Don’t agree with these comparisons? That’s the fun of it.