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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 17, 2008

By Brian Bailey

LeClair influence still profound at ECU

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Baseball’s version of “Meet the Pirates” is always an emotional affair.

Each year, one player leaves the gathering with a place forever etched in the history of East Carolina Pirate baseball.

This year, Brandon Henderson was named to wear the No. 23 to honor former ECU coach Keith LeClair.

LeClair coached the Pirates for only five seasons. He rang up a 212-96-1 record, quickly becoming the second winningest coach in the school’s rich baseball history.

LeClair led the Pirates to four straight NCAA Regional appearances, three Colonial Athletic Association championships and one Conference USA title.

LeClair fought the bravest of fights against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig's Disease), a debilitating disease that would eventually claim his life.

Each year, the past "winners" that can make it back to Greenville take part in the ceremony. Drew Schieber, last year’s recipient, presented Henderson with the “23” jersey.

“When Coach (Godwin) sat me down and told me about the jersey, it was just the greatest feeling,” said Henderson. “To wear the 23 jersey this year is really one of the greatest honors of my entire life.”

LeClair’s footprint steps deep into both baseball and life itself. Many of his former players honor him each year by also wearing the “23” jersey. Joe Hastings at Boston College wears number 23. Cliff Godwin at Central Florida will bring his 23 jersey to Greenville for that three-game series in March. Erik Bakich wears 23 at Vanderbilt. I’m sure there are others.

“It’s always a little emotional,” said head coach Billy Godwin. “Especially with guys like Brandon, and Drew Schieber, and guys you’ve worked with. You see their character and what they stand for. It’s just a great day for all Pirates, for Brandon Henderson and for all of our players.”

I asked Coach Godwin what Keith LeClair still brings to this program every day.

“I think he reminds us daily that we have to go out and play like a champion,” said Godwin. “A champion to me is not just going out on the field and working hard. It’s doing the right things off the field, in the classroom and being the best person you can be.”

East Carolina opens the 2009 baseball season this weekend with a three-game series at Clark-LeClair Stadium against Monmouth. Henderson and Godwin agree that this team needs to play a real game.

“I’ve got a veteran team that is chomping at the bit for sure,” said Godwin. “We’ll take these next couple of days to get some work in, but we’re ready to go.”

“I think we’re all ready to see a different uniform,” said Henderson. Henderson will debut that No. 23 jersey this Friday afternoon.

Henderson put the team's top goal into context regarding LeClair.

“I know when we make it to Omaha," he said, "that Coach LeClair will be right there with us…”

Henderson is the fifth senior to wear the 23 jersey. He is the seventh Pirate overall, joining Ben Sanderson (2003), Jamie Paige (2004), Brian Cavanaugh (2005), Adam Witter (2006), Chris Powell (2007), and Drew Schieber from last year in this elite group.


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02/17/2009 02:19:58 AM


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