Brewers have competing interests for BCS title game

John and Craig Counsell are both Notre Dame graduates.

John and Craig Counsell are both Notre Dame graduates.

They’ll be on the same team beginning next month at Maryvale Baseball Park, but a bunch of Brewers will have competing interests tonight when Notre Dame takes on Alabama on college football’s biggest stage — the BCS Championship Game.

Axford

Axford

Closer John Axford and infielder-turned-front office man Craig Counsell went to Notre Dame, and lefty Tom Gorzelanny is a diehard fan. Then there’s pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson, who attended the University of Alabama for three years before the Brewers made him a second-round Draft pick in 2010.

“I think SEC fans are just spoiled because we’re used to seeing our teams in the big bowl games,” Nelson said Monday from College Station, Tex., where he works out over the winter. “And I get to tell people I’m not a bandwagoner.”

Nelson

His Crimson Tide is a staple of the National Championship Game, appearing for the third time in the last four years. Alabama won the title in 2009 over Texas and last year over LSU.

For the Irish, it’s been a while. Notre Dame’s last national championship was in 1988.

“I think that’s back when they invented sliced bread or something,” Nelson said.

So Gorzelanny wasn’t going to miss it. He traveled from his home in Iowa to Miami for Monday’s game and Tweeted a photo from outside Sun Life Stadium, site of this year’s game.

Axford will be watching at home, having already gotten his fix.

“I went to a game this fall, and it was the first game I’d been to since I was in college,” said Axford, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2005. “I’m definitely excited.”

Axford saw the Irish beat Ken Macha’s Pittsburgh Panthers, and actually ran into Counsell and his boys at the stadium that day. Counsell was drafted by the Rockies out of Notre Dame in 1992 and with his father, John, has been a big supporter of the school’s baseball program over the years.

Gorzelanny grew up on Chicago’s South Side and became a fan of Notre Dame football.

“It’s been an awesome year to watch football and watch the Irish,” Gorzelanny said. “Every year. Notre Dame fans have high hopes and high expectations, but they’ve far exceeded what everybody expected this year. It’s just exciting to see them in this game.”

202046Did Axford see this coming?

“I knew that they had a good team, and the way Brian Kelly has been working with the team over the last few years, you had a feeling they were going to get better,” Axford said. “Their defense has gotten better and better — and that’s something they’ve focused on.”

Can the Irish win the game?

“Absolutely,” Gorzelanny said. “I don’t think it’s one of those times where you face Alabama and they’re just going to dominate. I don’t think that’s this year for them. They’re obviously a great team, still, but I don’t think they’re as good as they were last year, and Notre Dame’s defense is one of the best in the country.”

Said Nelson: “I do think it will be a good game. It’s really cool seeing two teams with such rich history and tradition. That’s what I’m excited about — two programs that don’t wear fancy, flashy uniforms. It’s very cool.”

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