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Keith LeClair Invitational Wrap-up:  Sunday recap... Saturday recap...

Sunday's Results: Clemson 9, GSU 0 • ECU 6, Clemson 4... ECU 7, GSU 4...

Saturday's Results: Clemson 4, GSU 0 • ECU 7, GSU 1... ECU 3, Clemson 2 (11)...

Birthday coincides with LeClair tournament... Sponsors hop aboard first-year event...

East Carolina Hall of Famer and
former baseball coach Keith LeClair.
 (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

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Editor's note: This feature
coordinated by Denny O'Brien.


From The Dugout

By Keith LeClair

Tournament brings focus to cause

As this weekend approaches and they kick off the Keith LeClair Invitational Tournament, with ECU, Clemson and Georgia Southern, I can honestly say I really didn't plan on being around to see it.  But through the blessing of God, I will be reunited with some of my closest friends and my mentor, Jack Leggett.  Without Coach Leggett, I probably never would have gotten the chance to play college baseball and certainly not have coached the game of baseball I love so much.

I had the greatest job in the world guiding the Pirates baseball program for nearly five years before ALS hit me like a ton of bricks.  I can remember my last game in a Pirates uniform like it was yesterday.  Of course, how could I ever forget the Pirates fans jammed into Grainger stadium to see us host Tennessee in the Super Regionals.  Yes, believe it or not, that was the last time I ever put on a uniform. Although I remained on as coach for the 2002 season, Coach Mac, Coach Eason, Coach Whitfield and Coach Loesner basically ran the team.

I was fighting the battle of my life, and it was one battle I was not winning.  There is a moment that year in 2002 that I will never forget.  Luke Cherry had been struggling at the plate one night and by this time in the progression of ALS, all I could do was slur a few words that nobody could understand but myself.  So, I scribbled Luke a note before he went the plate, and wouldn't you know, he crushed a ball in the gap for a bases-clearing triple. 

That note was about the last coaching I ever did, and less than a month after returning from the Charlotte series, I walked into the house and about collapsed.  Lynn called 911 and I was brought to Pitt Memorial Hospital, only to stop breathing a day later.  My wife had to make a decision:  let me go be with the Lord or put me on a ventilator to maintain life.  Obviously, Lynn chose the ventilator or I wouldn't be writing this column today.

I cannot lie and say the last couple of years has been a picnic, because it truly has been an awful lot of work on Lynn and many friends to keep me going.  I still get frustrated at times and the ole ball coach comes out of me every now and then, but through God's grace, he still has a purpose and plan for me.

Let me explain to you how ALS attacks and works in a victim's body.  First,  ALS is better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which is much easier to spell than the true spelling of ALS.  It's a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing loss of movement in muscles.  There are two forms of ALS, one being a sporadic form that shows up in one's body for no rhyme or reason.  The other is a formial type that is genetically linked two a sod1 gene in the body.  I personally have this kind of ALS and it has effected 16 people on my mother's side of the family — doctors say that high of a number is very odd.

So, there you have some medical information about ALS.  It's the best I could do.  Remember, I am a coach not a doctor.

How does ALS work its way through the body?  There really is no set pattern to this disease.  Some folks it starts in the legs, others arms and believe it or not the tongue.  As for me it started in the left arm with twitching spasms or fascilations, whichever you prefer to call them.  This went from my left arm to the tongue, into the neck, down my right arm, and eventually all the way to my legs.

What is odd about ALS is how fast the progression of this disease varies from person to person.  The average life span is three-to-five years without a ventilator.  I blew this curve away, because I lived about ten months before going on a ventilator, which again is very odd.  Some people live seven-to-ten years with ALS before passing away or choosing to go on a vent, so it really varies from person to person.

OK, let me tell you why I chose this article for this particular weekend.  This tournament is not about Keith LeClair, but ALS and all the people who are suffering from this cruel disease or have lost a loved one from it.  My intention for the weekend is to bring awareness to Lou Gehrig's and hopefully inspire some folks to donate money to help try and find a cure.  We need everyone's help in finding a cure, because research money for ALS is not heavily funded with federal money, although it has gotten better over the last few years.  The research field is somewhat limited compared to many of the other diseases that are out there today, because it only effects approximately 30,000 people a year.

Anybody interested in learning more about how you can help can find information at  This site was created for the late Jim "Catfish" Hunter in helping to fight on behalf of the cause to find a cure for ALS.  Everyone Down East knows the battle Catfish went through in his fight against Lou Gherig's disease, until it ultimately claimed his life.

Thanks and God bless.

If you have a question or comment about the Pirates in particular or baseball in general, fire your best pitch at Ol' Condo: Sound off to Coach LeClair...

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02.23.07 10:27 AM


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