NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Keith LeClair: A life to live
All rights reserved.
(ECU SID Archive Photo)
authored a regular column,
From the Dugout,
on Bonesville.net starting in September 2003. He
expounded on baseball and its many aspects, ranging
from strategy to rivalries to ethical questions. His
columns were widely read by the Pirate Nation as
well as by fans around the world who were inspired
by the life lessons he exemplified. In declining
health, LeClair penned 35 columns before deciding in
August 2004 to focus his full energies on Bible
study, sharing his faith through devotionals and
relishing his remaining time with his family.
Leclair passed away
in July 2006.
View Keith LeClair's From
the Dugout Archives.
It’s been a path strewn with priceless memories, grown men’s tears, untold
generosity and near-constant reminders of the things that endure far beyond
sports. Through the year I spent researching and writing a book about Keith
LeClair, I have become a guardian of a story with the power to transform
anyone whose life has been interrupted by hardship.
That book, Coaching Third: The Keith LeClair Story, will be available
this Friday, and the approach of the release date has given me ample
opportunity to reflect on the man so many called “Coach” and the ripples
still felt from his extraordinary life.
Last March, after Lynn LeClair agreed to let me undertake this project, I
traveled to upstate South Carolina to interview Lynn about her life with
Keith. For hours that must have felt longer to her, she unearthed stories
and emotions and entrusted them to me. Even J.D. and Audrey, now 12 and 15,
agreed to share memories of their dad.
Trips to South Carolina and New Hampshire followed, interspersed with dozens
of phone calls and face-to-face interviews.
After talking to 63 people about Keith, I had a rich, colorful portrait of
the man, from a New England childhood to college years in Cullowhee to
triumphs and trials in Greenville.
I was impressed to become acquainted with the young Keith who grew up in
tiny Walpole, NH, and to learn that everyone considered him focused, driven
and mature beyond his years. Those are qualities that were completely
consistent with the hard-nosed, Omaha-focused coach who took the reins of
the Pirate baseball program in 1997.
I talked to the men who were shaped forever because they played on a LeClair
team for a year or two. At least a dozen of Keith’s former players from ECU
or Western Carolina are now coaching at the collegiate level, and each draws
daily inspiration from the coach who showed them how to win through hard
work and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
Those stories alone, the ones from his healthy days, would have been enough
to set Keith apart. But when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2001, the real
measure of the man emerged, and he showed everyone who was watching what it
meant to move beyond enduring and to actually thrive as his body
He took stock of his life to that point and realized that baseball had
occupied center stage for too long. He started to read his Bible and pray
throughout his days, and he spoke to several churches about his refashioned
priorities: His Christian faith first, family second, then baseball.
When Keith got the Eyegaze computer that allowed him to communicate with
people who visited his home and corresponded via e-mail, he spent hours
studying the Bible and writing Christian devotionals that he then sent to
friends and former players. Above all, he was compelled to tell others about
the hope he had found in Christ and to urge them to follow Him with their
His life was too short, and his death at age 40 still leaves a gaping hole
in the lives of his family and close friends. But while Keith’s story is
marked by sadness, it is also characterized by laughter in the most
surprising places, and lives that will forever be more generous, less petty
and more focused on faith because they intersected the journey of Keith
For more information about Coaching Third: The Keith LeClair Story,
E-mail Bethany Bradsher
Bethany Bradsher Archives
03/03/2010 03:42 AM