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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

'Old coach' put his mark on program

In every successful business or athletics program, there is almost always someone behind the scenes who helps bring you to the top — but is never seen nor recognized.

This truly is the case with the East Carolina baseball program. When I interviewed for the job at ECU in July of 1998, Dr. Henry Van Sant picked me up at the airport and for most of the weekend was my chauffer. I never knew this man before stepping off the plane at the Greenville airport, but before the weekend came to an end, I knew this was a man with integrity and a winning desire.

When Mike Hamrick went out on a limb, with the support of Dr. V, and hired me as the baseball coach, Dr. Van Sant essentially became the guy I reported to. If I had a problem, I would take the walk out of Scales Fieldhouse and up the stairs into the Sports Med building to lay my request before Dr. Van Sant. I think whenever he saw me coming, he began to chuckle, thinking what does Coach want now?

I would hound him like a beagle running rabbits in a circle, whether it be more recruiting money, added equipment, better travel accommodations, upgraded batting cages, field groundskeepers, getting coaches out of teaching in the classroom or adding a second paid assistant — you name it. In all my years, I never had an administrator listen so contently and understand it was always for the good of the player and program like Van Sant.

After a few good stories from his coaching days, he would always say, "Coach, get what you need and I will take it out of my travel budget." I often told him his travel budget would get us to Omaha someday, and it very well may.

You see, Dr. Van Sant was a coach/administrator. He knew where I was coming from and always did what he could to help. He was the man behind the scenes who helped build our program to the national power it is today under the guidance of Randy Mazey. Without Henry's support, there would have been no California or Canadian kids in our program, but Henry trusted the coaches' vision and let them do their job to the fullest.

You know, a winning program is not a one man show. It's a complete team effort from the players, coaches, managers, administration and, most importantly, the fans. If you take the yeast out of bread, it won't rise; if you take a part out of the team, it won't win.

Dr. Van Sant deserves his share of the credit for helping the program advance to where it is today.

To Coach Mazey and the staff and players, being ranked No. 4 is an amazing accomplishment, a label of achievement that surely does have a mighty fine ring to it. Congratulations on your regular season Conference USA championship.

Dr. Van Sant, thank you, too. You can take great pride in knowing you're a big part of this.

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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