There’s a line in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, in which Andy Dufresne reminds his friend Red that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of the things. And no good thing ever dies.”
That might be the truth.
But for East Carolina sports fans, hope has been on life support these past couple of years as the football team has suffered through back-to-back 3-9 seasons, the basketball program has continued to founder and even the usually reliable baseball squad fell short of the postseason in 2017.
But suddenly, through the overcast and rain that hung over Clearwater, FL, for the past week, a bright a ray of sunshine has begun poking through to finally restore some of that hope among Pirate Nation.
ECU’s championship performance at the American Athletic Conference tournament was a big deal for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the trophy Coach Cliff Godwin’s team brought home with it, the automatic NCAA tournament bid the title earned the Pirates, and the NCAA’s selection of ECU as the host and Clark-LeClair Stadium as the site of one of 16 regionals this weekend.
As important as all those things might be, they pale by comparison to the positive effect winning something of such significance has had on the psyche of an entire athletic program — and how much it could potentially carry over to the rest of ECU’s teams when they return to action in the fall.
That’s not to say coach Scottie Montgomery’s football team is going to miraculously become an AAC title contender simply because of baseball’s success.
But hey, at this point, even a little bit of positive mojo can’t hurt.
“That is very important,” Dave Hart, the man currently in charge of the athletic department in his role of Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Sports, said of the baseball team’s success. “Because right now we’re trying to get other visible programs, and comprehensively we’re trying to get all the programs to the point where people can hang their hat on it and feel good about it. It’s the passion we’ve been waiting for.”
To say the Pirates’ conference champion baseball team has reignited a spark of that passion — both over the past week and the entire 43-win-and-counting season — would be a massive understatement.
Hart said he witnessed the long-awaited excitement with his own eyes last Tuesday during ECU’s opening round tournament victory against Central Florida.
“I can tell you in the athletic building there were all kind of TVs on and people walking by, peeking to see what inning it was, what the score was,” he said. “I’m sure that was going on throughout a lot of businesses as well.”
Chances are there will be even less productivity around Greenville this week and perhaps beyond as well.
As the No. 1 seed and host of an NCAA regional, the Pirates will go into the postseason as the favorite to advance regardless of which three teams fill out the bracket when they are announced later today.
If they do move past the regional round, it’s not unreasonable to make a case for them to also win a Super Regional and finally make it to the college baseball promised land of Omaha.
That’s a matter of fact, not hyperbole, considering the depth the Pirates have in both their batting order and pitching staff and their status as one of only eight teams in the entire nation with as many as 43 wins to their credit.
Okay, so maybe that is a little bit of wishful thinking with the premise of ECU becoming this year’s version of the 2016 national champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
But as both Andy Dufresne and Dave Hart remind us, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.
“You can go all the way back to Bonaparte, who said that leaders are dealers in hope,” Hart said. “I’ve always believed that. Well, right now, baseball is offering that level of hope.”