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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

By Brian Bailey

"23" ceremony gets emotions flowing

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

The late
Keith LeClair
(ECU SID File Photo)
Billy Godwin
(Photo: ECU SID)
Austin Homan
(Photo: ECU SID)


Replay Monday night's Brian Bailey Show with guest DONNIE KIRKPATRICK. Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.

Replay Show
Pirate Radio Home Page


Big Honor for East Carolina Outfielder

Coach Billy Godwin presented the No. 23 jersey, an annual honor symbolizing the values of the late coach Keith LeClair, to Austin Homan (recorded by Brian Bailey):
Godwin & Homan Comments...


Bailey: "23" ceremony gets emotions flowing
O'Brien: Right man in right place at right time
BVL Audio: Billy Godwin and No. 23 Recipient Austin Homan
BVL: Herd hammers Pirates 100-49
O'Brien: Mea culpa for poor choice of words
BVL Audio: Ruffin McNeill Signing Day Press Conference
Myatt: ECU's recruiting class gets 'Ruff' love
BVL: ECU Football Recruiting Thumbnails
BVL: Abrams shines but Pirates lose
Bailey: Expectations high as first pitch nears

The East Carolina baseball team certainly understands the importance of wearing the number “23.” Keith LeClair wore the number as the head coach of the Pirates before stepping down while suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

ECU baseball fans also understand the significance of the honor. It was standing room only for Saturday’s announcement [Replay audio clip...], which was the highlight of the annual “Meet the Pirates” luncheon.

Instead of retiring “23” to honor LeClair's memory, the Pirates award the jersey to a team member each season.

Junior outfielder Austin Homan was presented with the “23” jersey on Saturday.

Former Pirate Brandon Henderson wore “23” last season and did a great job with this year’s presentation.
Henderson talked about Homan’s passion for baseball and about how hard he worked.

Henderson shared a story about Homan missing a fly ball in a game last season, and how Homan stayed late into the night after the game, working and practicing so something like that would never happen again.

That’s the character that goes into the award. That’s what Keith LeClair was all about.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Homan. “It’s great to be a part of all of these guys. Ben Sanderson actually called me a couple of nights ago and the first thing that he said was, ‘Welcome to the family.’

"It was hard not to get choked up right there when he said that.”

"Austin is a good player, but he is a great ambassador for our program," said ECU Coach Billy Godwin. "He has excelled both on the field and in the class room, where he has been on the Conference USA honor roll for three-straight years, and he exemplifies everything that Coach LeClair was about.”

Homan was the first Pirate off the bench last season. He hit .421 as a pinch hitter in 2009. This year Homan will be one of the four East Carolina captains.

Homan first learned about the meaning of wearing “23” in his first year at East Carolina.

“My freshman year, when I came in, it was my first ‘Meet the Pirates’ and it was a little intimidating, but that’s when I first learned about “23,” he said. "It stuck with me since then, that I wanted to be able to wear the number “23.” It’s been a goal since my freshman year and it’s really a tremendous honor.”

Godwin thought the emotions of the day would be easier this time out, but with every passing year the emotions of the day seem to go deeper.

“I thought I’d be better,” said Godwin, “but I think it was worse. It’s just such a great day for our program, to reflect on what Coach LeClair meant to this program, this community and this university. To honor him with this each year is really special.”

The team keeps a framed ‘23’ jersey in the locker room, along with a plaque that tells the Keith LeClair story, and the names that have worn number “23” since 2003.

The Pirates are just about a week and a half away from opening the baseball season. East Carolina is ranked as high as 11th in the national polls. Opening weekend opponent Virginia is a Top 5 team, ranked second in one of the major polls.

The Pirates are expected to start Seth Maness in the Friday game. Lefty Kevin Brandt will go on Saturday, with Brad Mincey scheduled to go on Sunday.

Baseball is special at East Carolina, and 2010 got off to a great start on Saturday.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

02/09/2010 01:58 AM


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