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02/04/09 1:25 PM EST

Samardzija establishes scholarship

Notre Dame endowment to honor mother's memory

CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija lost his mother when he was a senior in high school. He wants to make sure no one forgets her.

The Cubs pitcher, who played football and baseball at Notre Dame, has established a scholarship at the Indiana university in memory of his mother, Debora.

Memories of what his mother meant to him motivated Samardzija to create the Debora Samardzija Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded each year to a student who has suffered the loss of a loved one while continuing to strive for academic excellence.

"Obviously, Notre Dame is a pretty expensive school to attend, so we'll do anything can to help out," Samardzija said last week in announcing the scholarship. "We feel that someone in that situation would be very appreciative of it."

Samardzija talked about the idea with his brother and his agent about a year ago, and didn't want to announce anything until they were sure they could make a long-term commitment.

"We don't want it to last a year or two, so we took our time setting it up," Samardzija said.

There will be an in-depth screening process to determine the recipient. The scholarship is a good tribute to his mother, he said.

"She was the most unselfish person of all time and I just try, as much as I can, to adapt that to what I do," he said. "Giving back to Notre Dame, giving back to the students or maybe it's an athlete that has the same situation, it just seems like a perfect situation and she would just be really happy with that."

Samardzija, who enters Spring Training hoping to secure a spot on the Cubs' pitching staff, was to be a keynote speaker Thursday at the Notre Dame baseball team's opening night dinner. Last year with the big league team, the right-hander appeared in 26 games in relief and compiled a 2.26 ERA.

"The way it's shaping up now is there is an open spot, so I'm going to go to Spring Training fighting tooth and nail to earn that spot," he said.

That kind of attitude would make his mother proud.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.