Girardi Gets Award From McCormick (Baseball)

Christina Amoroso

By Christina AmorosoThe Daily Northwestern

About 80 people filled a third-floor room in Technological Institute on Tuesday afternoon to see former professional and Northwestern baseball player Joe Girardi accept the Distinguished Alumnus Award from McCormick’s industrial engineering and management sciences department.

The award was started four years ago to honor McCormick alumni. Honorees have held careers in industries that range from business to the arts.

When the former catcher entered the room, he immediately signed an autograph for a fan before accepting the award.

Girardi was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a three-time Academic All-American during his time at NU.

In a brief speech, Girardi discussed his time at NU and how his engineering education helped him with his professional career.

“You think about industrial engineers as problem solvers. In baseball, that’s all you do,” the 1986 graduate said. “I do use the principles I learned in problem-solving.”

Girardi also emphasized the relationships he cultivated at NU and during his professional career. He mentioned Don Zimmer, who managed Girardi when the NU grad first started playing professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs.

“Zim was a guy who would not just manage from a piece of paper, he would manage from his heart,” he said. “He would not always go by the book.”

He played there for four seasons before playing three seasons with the Colorado Rockies and four with the New York Yankees.

Girardi said New York was his favorite place to play, but that his favorite four years of his baseball life were at NU.

The Peoria native returned to the team he grew up rooting for – the Chicago Cubs – in 2000 for three seasons before playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and retiring in 2003. He said playing for the Cubs was his childhood dream and that he’s still a huge fan despite playing for so many different teams.

“What I would like to see is the Cubs win the World Series,” he said.

After doing some broadcast work, Girardi was the Yankees’ bench coach in 2005 before managing the Florida Marlins in 2006, where he received the National League Manager of the Year Award. He was fired in October, reportedly because he clashed with team management.

Girardi also said that initially people thought he was crazy for having the goal of getting to the World Series.

“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t play,” he said to his players. “It just means people don’t know you can do your job.

“Making people believe in themselves is so important.”

Girardi also gave other advice to students in the audience, emphasizing the importance of getting through difficult times.

“Relish those moments,” he said, because they are pressure situations.

Communication senior Kyle Luhr said he wasn’t aware Girardi was going to be on campus. He said he appreciated hearing the advice Girardi told his young players.

“I’m a senior, so I’m ready to start the next phase of my life,” he said.

Reach Christina Amoroso at [email protected]