Insights and Observations
Read Henry Hinton's
feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum
Beth Grant in
Friday, January 28, 2005
By Henry Hinton
LeClair legacy still leading
|Replay the audio
archive of Thursday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton:
As excitement builds around Greenville for the opening
of Clark-LeClair Stadium and the debut of Randy Mazey's 2005 team, there's
also another tangible sign of growth in the East Carolina baseball program.
The university announced this week a
landmark broadcasting agreement for
ECU baseball. For the first time, every game will be aired over the Pirate
Sports Radio Network.
Being a part of the negotiations and decision-making on
this, I was reminded of some history with regard to the baseball radio
It is yet another tribute to Keith LeClair.
It is hard to believe now but when Coach LeClair came
to Greenville in 1998 there was some skepticism about his hiring. Not only
had he replaced Gary Overton, the winningest coach in Pirate history, but he
was not the sentimental favorite of many in the Pirate community.
Former ECU player Billy Best had been the odds-on
favorite to replace his old coach, Overton, when the job came open. Best was
an assistant at N.C. State and had many friends and supporters lobbying the
administration on his behalf.
Coming from Western Carolina, LeClair was not a total
unknown to ECU folks but few had followed his career to that point.
The first season was predictably rocky for LeClair. In
fact, I recall several ‘baseball people’ more or less shunning the new head
coach due to frayed nerves left over from the Best rejection.
It was between his first and second seasons that Coach
LeClair approached me about broadcasting more games on the radio. At that
time, our company owned WCZI-FM and we had established wall to wall coverage
for other ECU sports.
“You know at Western we had nearly every game on the
radio,” LeClair said to me in the meeting.
To that point, WCZI had aired approximately 10 games
per year for ECU baseball. Looking back, I can understand that he must have
been thinking that was a pretty miserable commitment to the program compared
to what we were doing for football and basketball.
His enthusiasm alone was the determining factor in our
decision to ‘step to the plate.’
In his first year in Greenville, his team had set an
ECU record for the most losses (29) and I remember thinking: 'Who is going
to listen to this?' But LeClair seemed special and I figured if he was that
excited about his program, maybe I should be, too.
That season we aired about 25 games that culminated in
an amazing run by the Pirates to the NCAA Regionals at LSU. To this day, I
believe that first game played against LSU in the late May tournament was
the single most exciting sporting event I have ever witnessed.
The Pirates upset the Tigers 11-10 in that game after
Lee Delfino hit a late home run and Erik Bakich drove in the winning run in
the last inning with a single to right field.
Memories of that broadcast are etched in my memory.
Jake Jacobs and I were calling the game from atop the stands in Alex Box
Stadium within earshot of the rabid LSU fans.
We were screaming at the top of our lungs to the
listening audience back home that the Pirates had done the unthinkable —
upset LSU on its home field.
Suddenly, we realized that the fans sitting around us
were staring at us — and they did not seem to be sharing our exuberance. We
learned quickly that they love their baseball at LSU and they don’t like
losing on their home field. We literally had to be escorted from the stadium
by security officers that day.
LSU athletics director Joe Dean assigned us security
for the rest of the tournament, but we didn’t need it. ECU ran out of
pitching that weekend and lost the next two games to the Tigers, who went on
to the College World Series.
That season started an uphill trip for ECU that has
taken the program to a national level. That particular weekend also had a
hand in the building of our new stadium. ECU had been a number one seed that
weekend but the NCAA had sent the Pirates halfway across the country to play
in one of the toughest venues in America.
The need and idea for a first-class stadium in
Greenville was born.
Again, it was LeClair who made it happen.
One other memory from that weekend in Baton Rouge that
is still vivid for me is the post-game celebration after that 11-10 victory.
Coach LeClair said to me that day that the celebration should have been
taking place in Greenville instead of Louisiana.
Now, the Pirates will not have to play away from home
if they are a number one seed. Construction on Clark-LeClair stadium is
nearly complete. That part of LeClair’s dream will soon be a reality.
When the university asked if we would carry the entire
baseball schedule this year on Talk 1070, my thoughts turned to those early
conversations and great moments with my friend Keith LeClair.
How could I say no?
Send an e-mail message to
Click here to dig into Henry Hinton's
02/23/2007 10:16:01 AM