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Lund Finds a Home Beneath the Golden Dome : St. Francis Graduate Helps Turn Fighting Irish Baseball Program Into a National Power

April 13, 1989|GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

Ed Lund is surrounded by tradition at Notre Dame, where there are almost as many legends as there are trees.

Notre Dame is Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen and win one for the Gipper.

Notre Dame is Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz.

Notre Dame is national championships. Football championships.

Notre Dame, therefore, is not the place baseball players reared in Southern California go to continue their careers. At least it wasn't when Lund graduated from St. Francis High in 1986 and took off for South Bend, Ind.

You want Notre Dame baseball tradition? The Fighting Irish made it to the NCAA tournament five years in a row from 1956-60. End of story.

Lund, however, has been part of a transformation that is allowing Notre Dame baseball players to not only bask beneath the Golden Dome, but also in the Top 30.

Lund, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound catcher from Pasadena, is batting .280 with three home runs and 24 runs batted in for the 27th-ranked Fighting Irish, who are 20-6 and have been perennial incumbents this season in the national baseball poll produced by Collegiate Baseball magazine.

Suddenly, the student who said he made a visit to the South Bend campus when he was a junior in high school because, "I grew up in a Catholic family and was always hearing about Notre Dame," is getting the education he always wanted and the attention from professional baseball scouts that he yearned for almost as much.

"If you were to tell me when I was a freshman that I would be at this point, I would have never believed you," Lund said. "It's been a big turnaround."

Most of the credit for the revitalization of the program has gone to Notre Dame Coach Pat Murphy, 30, an admitted life-long Fighting Irish fanatic.

Murphy took the job last year after two successful seasons at Claremont College--where he led his team to its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 11 years--and coaching the national team from the Netherlands to the European championship in the summer of 1987.

"His energy has no bounds," USC Coach Mike Gillespie said of Murphy.

Last season, with a nucleus of players that went 15-29 during Lund's freshman season, the Fighting Irish finished 39-22.

"In our first team meeting, he (Murphy) was very intense, very straightforward and very honest about the way the program was going to be run and how things were going to be done his way," Lund said. "You could tell right away that he didn't want to be our buddy or our friend. He wanted to be our coach to help us win and become better baseball players."

An All-Del Rey League outfielder at St. Francis, where he batted .360 his senior year, Lund has blossomed as a catcher--a position he was unable to play in high school because of the presence of teammate Sam Vranjes, now the starting catcher for USC.

Lund and Vranjes may meet when the Fighting Irish and Trojans clash in a two-game series tentatively scheduled for next fall in South Bend--a few days before the schools' football teams play.

Murphy arranged a similar series with Miami last fall.

Notre Dame swept the series and beat the 14th-ranked Hurricanes again in March during a spring trip to Florida. The Fighting Irish have also defeated 10th-ranked Texas this season.

"It's nice to see some recognition and it's nice to see the hard work paying off," said Lund, who is majoring in finance. "But we can't dwell on that because we have a long way to go."

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