Pat Connaughton has some decisions to make.
The 6-foot-5 junior just finished a strong year on the court and on the diamond for the Fighting Irish this season and now the right-handed starting pitcher could be drafted next Thursday in the three-day MLB Draft.
Connaughton is expected to be selected after a junior year in which he went 3-5 on the mound with a 3.92 earned run average. Connaughton was even better his sophomore season when he finished 4-2 with a 1.71 earned run average.
But there’s a catch: Connaughton wants to return to Notre Dame in the fall regardless of whether he is drafted to play baseball or not.
According to a story from Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated, Connaughton has 15 credit hours left that will give him his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, while he also hopes to play basketball for Notre Dame for his senior season.
Connaughton averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during the Irish’s 15-17 season in 2013-14.
Some Major League teams are willing to let him go along with his plan of completing his senior season, Connaughton told Prister. Notre Dame’s basketball program leaves for an August trip to Italy and Connaughton hopes to participate in that and his senior basketball season.
“There are some teams that aren’t willing to negotiate something like that,” Connaughton said to Prister.
Connaughton told Prister there are “10-to-15” MLB organizations that have indicated a willingness to let him play his senior season on the hardwood. The Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and California Angels have all reportedly expressed interest in Connaughton going through with the scenario of letting him play basketball.
“At the end of the day, it’s just like picking a college,” Connaughton said. “If the schools that were saying, ‘Yeah, you can do this but it’s going to be tough,’ you’re already stacking the odds against me before I get on campus. So why not pick a school where they were saying, ‘You can do it and we’re going to help you succeed at that.’”
In 2011, Connaughton was a 38th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres out of high school, but opted for a college career at Notre Dame. The pitcher’s fastball has been regularly clocked in the low-to-mid 90s while walking 40 batters and striking out 36 in 62 innings pitched this spring.
If Connaughton isn’t selected in the MLB Draft next week, he also can return to Notre Dame to play basketball and baseball for his senior season and the junior could also opt to strictly focus on his baseball career if he’s picked high in the draft next week.