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Notre Dame coach will be on home turf at Fenway

Brian Kelly brings a powerhouse to Fenway Park: Notre Dame is 9-1 and ranked fourth in the country.Keith Srakocic/AP/Associated Press

Brian Kelly's office in Notre Dame's Guglielmino Athletics Complex is a treasure trove of Boston sports memorabilia.

There is a row of football helmets that trace the lineage of the Fighting Irish head coach going back to high school (St. John's Prep) and college (Assumption).

There is a bat from former Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, who became a fan of the Fighting Irish because of his friendship with former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, a fellow Hawaiian.

And there's a Zdeno Chara hockey stick, which was presented to Kelly last year as a birthday present from ND strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo.


But mounted in an exalted spot, near the crown molding of his office, is an especially cherished memento: an autographed bat from Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who celebrated his 40th birthday Wednesday by announcing that he would retire at the end of the 2016 season.

How did it come into Kelly's possession?

"Well, I went to the Chicago White Sox-Red Sox game last year [in Chicago] and Ed Farmer, who is the play-by-play radio announcer for the Chicago White Sox, is a huge Notre Dame fan,'' Kelly said. "He got me the opportunity to meet David.''

Ortiz presented Kelly with the bat.

"I had given him a jersey on my trip to Boston the year before, a framed jersey, and so we've been kind of going back and forth exchanging trinkets and things from each program,'' Kelly said. "It's [placed] pretty prominently up on my wall, so I'm pretty proud of it.''

It serves as a strong reminder of Kelly's Boston roots, which the sixth-year Notre Dame coach will celebrate when he guides the 9-1 Fighting Irish, who are No. 4 in the most recent College Football Rankings, to Fenway Park for a showdown Saturday night against Boston College (3-7).


The game will be Notre Dame's seventh installment of its popular Shamrock Series, in which the Fighting Irish stage a scheduled home game at a neutral site.

However, this one will be far from a neutral site. BC's Chestnut Hill campus is less than 5 miles away from Fenway, just a ride away on the MBTA's Green Line. As for Kelly? The 54-year-old native of Everett might as well be in his own backyard.

Prying a favorite Fenway memory from Kelly, though, is problematic.

"I've got a lot of them,'' he said. "Recently, probably sitting up in the Green Monster seats with my family. That was probably the most recent. As a kid, it was probably going with my Dad to the '75 World Series. I think those probably stand out.

"But going to Fenway is an event in itself. It's not just the stadium, but it's the surroundings and it's always an enjoyable time.''

Kelly has won at every juncture of his career. He won at Grand Valley State (118-35-2 in 13 seasons), Central Michigan (19-16, three seasons) and Cincinnati (34-6, three seasons). Now 54-21 at Notre Dame, Kelly said his success as a coach was built upon the lessons learned from the men he first played and coached for at St. John's Prep and Assumption, where he was middle linebacker and team captain for Paul Cantiani and a defensive coordinator for four seasons under Bernie Gaughan.

Football at Fenway Park through the years

Here’s a short look at the long history of football being played at Fenway Park.

"Both those gentlemen were my coaches in college,'' Kelly said. "[They] gave me a chance to be a captain and lead and learn about teamwork, learn about attention to detail. All the things I espouse today in my own program.''


From each one, Kelly gleaned some bit of insight.

"Oh, you steal a little bit of everything, right?'' he said. "From my high school coach, Fred Glatz, to every coach I've ever been around. Paul Cantiani was an insurance salesman and, boy, he could sell, right? So you take a little bit of that. He was great at that.

"And Bernie Gaughan was a blue-collar technician. I mean, he was every day about football. It was about the X's and the O's and learning football and watching film and watching tape. So there were two different head coaches. So learned a lot from them.''

Kelly hopes to bring those lessons to bear when he brings the Fighting Irish back to the playground of his youth.

Kelly was asked if he had any plans to take down his cherished keepsake, the bat from Ortiz, and bring it to Boston for a few cracks at the Green Monster.

"Heck no,'' he said. "It's staying right where it is. It's sitting there pretty nicely right now.''

When it comes to the College Football Rankings, so, too, is the football team Kelly will be shipping up to Boston.

Brian Kelly threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in June.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.