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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

Former coach belongs in Hall

I thought this week would be an appropriate time to recognize a guy who has given so much to the Pirates baseball program and university over the years. He bleeds purple and deserves a lot of the credit for where this program is today.

Coach Gary Overton is the winningest coach in Pirates history with 428 victories — a mark he compiled from 1985-1997, when he served as the head baseball coach. In 13 seasons he had a .643 winning percentage, coached five teams to the NCAA tournament, and in 1990, ECU had the highest winning percentage of any team in the country with a 47-9 record.

During that time period, he coached 5 All-Americans and had an unbelievable 47 players drafted, not to mention being named American Baseball Coaches Association East Region Coach of the Year and the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year.

Prior to being head coach, Overton served as an assistant in the program from 1973-1984, accumulating 25 years of coaching service to East Carolina University, not including the three years he served as a student athlete in the program.

When I arrived at ECU in July of 1997, I learned some startling things that Coach O had to overcome in all the years he was head coach. It is easy sometimes from the outside looking in to criticize and be opinionated, but often, until you are on the inside, you do not always know the whole story.

What most folks don't realize is that Coach O and his one paid assistant were basically full-time teachers as well. That's right. Not only carrying the load of head coach, but the role of being a teacher as well.

To think he did all this with one paid assistant — who also taught — and a graduate assistant — who took a full load of classes — is in my mind amazing.

I remember back to my first year when I was told that I would not be teaching, but my assistant, Coach Mazey, and grad assitant, Coach Eason, would still be in the classroom. I finished that year and thought this has got to change if we want to compete at the highest level. Eventually, the situation changed and we hired two full time assistants that didn't have to teach.

I bring this up only to show the job Coach Overton did during his tenure at ECU. his numbers speak for themselves, and in my mind, it's time that coach gets the credit he deserves and a trip into the ECU Hall of Fame. When we look at the current success of the program, Coach O and the former coaches deserve great credit for the part they played in building and sustaining the long successful tradition that has been established at ECU.

Coach Overton, thanks for all you have given to the baseball program and East Carolina University. My hat's off to not only a tremendous coach, but an even better person.

Tracy off to hot start

I think all of Greenville was tuned into Monday's game that featured former East Carolina star Chad Tracy, with the Arizona Diamondbacks versus the Chicago Cubs. One of the first pitches Chad saw he promptly banged it off the centerfield wall for a double. Before it was all over, Chad collected two hits and two RBI's.

But what was even greater were the highlight reel plays he made in the field. In fact, one was on ESPN as the number two Top Ten play of the day, in which he tumbled over the foul railing into the grounds keeper's area for the third out of the inning.

That catch brought Randy Johnson to say, "I haven't seen plays like that made since I have been around." Not bad coming from a future Hall of Famer.

Chad is a tremendous young man who has worked hard to achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues. I know he certainly made me a better coach and it had nothing to do with what I taught him.

You know what's even greater about this story? One of our own Pirates, Howard McCullough, signed Chad. As the saying goes, quoting the "Big Guy"... "Pirates supporting Pirates."

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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