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Notre Dame Baseball has a new rallying cry this season.

Photo by Erin Locascio/Notre Dame Athletics

If you’ve watched any Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball games this season, you may have noticed a new presence in the dugout and in team celebrations. Although he’s burst on the scene for the Irish pitching staff this season, no, we aren’t talking about Cole Kmet.

What we are talking about is the shillelagh that has become a symbol for the team as they close out their season and approach conference play. Starting out as a fun idea from Coach Mik Aoki, the shillelagh has become a symbol for the Irish baseball team, a rallying cry for team celebrations, and a social media hashtag that has fans and players alike calling to pass the shillelagh. Coach Aoki was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking to me about the shillelagh, where it came from, and how it’s worked.

Photo by Erin Locascio/Notre Dame Athletics

We’ve all seen teams use symbols to rally and inspire their players and fans. Whether it be the Virginia Tech Hokies and the lunch pail, the Tennessee Volunteers and their trash can, or *shudders* the Miami-Florida Hurricanes and the turnover chain, having a symbol that fans and players can unite behind is certainly nothing new.

It was precisely these symbols that sparked the idea for Aoki prior to this season. He went looking for something to bring to his baseball team, and considering the Fighting Irish name, what better than a shillelagh? Once he had the idea he went looking for a shillelagh, and about a week or two later he found one that he liked. It was made in Ireland and club-like. This is baseball after all, where the offense uses bats to hit a ball often as far as they can.

Aoki presented the shillelagh and the idea to the coaches and players as something to bring to the dugout each game and represent the mentality he wanted the team to have - to be the best version of Notre Dame baseball that they could be. The team loved the idea. They ran with it and have taken control of it ever since.

Photo by Erin Locascio/Notre Dame Athletics

The shillelagh made its first appearance in the season opening series against the LSU Tigers. Originally intended by Aoki to be awarded to anybody that hit a home run once they crossed the plate, it instead came out when the Irish scored their first run of the season against a ranked and heavily favored LSU team on the road in Baton Rouge. When Cole Daily scored the first Irish run of the season, sophomore pitcher Jack Sheehan grabbed the shillelagh out of the dugout and brought it into the team celebration. Ever since it’s been used to celebrate a run scored, being awarded to whoever crosses the plate.

Since that first series, the shillelagh has stuck with the Irish through a season that has provided plenty of runs scored, including some late game heroics. Whether it be early inning runs, late game comebacks, or walk-off wins, the shillelagh has been present to celebrate whenever Notre Dame scores. Most importantly though, it has been a way for this specific Notre Dame baseball team to create a bond and an identity that is unique to them.

Whenever something like this is derived for a team to start a season, and it doesn’t come about naturally, there is the threat that it will be seen or felt as a gimmick. Watching this team from afar though, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and Aoki agrees. He believes the team has rallied behind the idea and made it their own, causing fans to buy in as well. From the very beginning this is something that they embraced. The team’s social media account has run with the idea as well, using the hashtag #PassTheShillelagh whenever they can.

Photo by Erin Locascio/Notre Dame Athletics

Notre Dame has picked up their play of late, winning ten of their last thirteen games including winning their last three series. With some late game heroics and big offensive outputs included in that stretch the shillelagh has gotten a fair amount of work. Aoki and the Irish will hope it continues to shine as they finish their regular season schedule and move into ACC tournament play. And good news Irish fans, Aoki says we can expect the shillelagh to be back next season. Until then, though, the shillelagh will be joining the Irish as they look to make a run in postseason play.