TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
Monday, February 4,
Cannon will fire
(ECU Media Relations photo)
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The older I get the
more I appreciate history and tradition.
There is nothing I
appreciate more at East Carolina than the annual number 23 jersey
presentation to honor former coach Keith LeClair.
It was an honor just
to know LeClair. I thought about him often this week watching Super Bowl
coverage and the stories about former Baltimore Ravens special teams
standout O.J. Brigance.
Brigance is in his
fifth year battling ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He currently
serves as the senior advisor to player development for the Ravens. His
story has inspired the Ravens all season long.
Stories about Brigance
this week showed him using an eye gaze machine to communicate, just like
the one LeClair used while he battled ALS.
Just like LeClair,
Brigance showed his sense of humor with jokes, using only his eyes to
look at the machine which would then deliver the humor.
Fittingly, the Pirates
awarded the 23 jersey on this Super Bowl weekend.
Senior Jay Cannon will
wear the number 23. Cannon played in 45 games, making 40 starts during
his first year with the Pirates after transferring from Brunswick
Community College. He was a key part of the ECU offense that struggled
when he went down to an injury late in the season.
“He is the heart of
our club,” said Coach Billy Godwin. “Last year he got hurt near the end
of the year. I remember saying that he was so much more than just that
.310 batting average hitting in the five hole.”
Cannon was more than
excited when he got the news.
“This is the most
exciting thing that I have ever been a part of,” said Cannon. “I came
from a community college where there were 10 people in the stands every
game. To be here where you play in front of four thousand fans and now
wearing this jersey and having my name associated with the rest of these
guys is something that I never thought was possible.
"I will truly hold
this forever near and dear to my heart.”
“All the guys are
excited,” said Godwin. “But you could just see him lift up with
excitement. He kept clapping like a little kid he was so excited. Then
we had the chance to call his father and I thought his father was going
to come right through the phone he was so excited.”
after the following picture.
Jay Cannon is embraced by the denizens of the Clark-LeClair
Stadium "Jungle" after catching a fly on the warning track to seal
ECU victory over North Carolina State last season.
[W.A. Myatt photo]
Cannon glowed as he
talked to the huge crowd at the “Meet the Pirates” luncheon. His
excitement shone through as he looked forward to a season as number 23.
I give Coach Godwin a
ton of credit for embracing the tradition of the 23 jersey. He and his
staff work hard to present the number to just the right person.
“When we first started
the conversation back in November and December we thought of several
guys,” explained Godwin. “That‘s a testimony for the type of players we
have. We probably spent five or six hours looking at different angles.
represents everything that this award is about. It represents a man who
had great vision for our program. He was a great person in our
"Jay has that same
type of work ethic and passion. When the dust settled he was the best
Jay Cannon first heard
about the tradition when he arrived at East Carolina.
"When I first stepped
on campus during my visit in 2011, I knew this was the place I needed to
be," he recalled. "To be standing up here and accepting this jersey is
just an unbelievable feeling."
Cannon follows in a
long line of outstanding individuals to wear the 23 jersey to honor
Coach LeClair. New ECU assistant coach Ben Sanderson was the very first
honoree. Cannon becomes the eighth senior and 10th player to wear the
Jamie Paige followed
Sanderson in 2004. Brian Cavanaugh, Adam Witter, Chris Powell, Drew
Schieber, Brandon Henderson, Austin Homan and Tim Younger followed from
Homan, the current
head of baseball operations within the program, is the only player to
wear the jersey two different seasons.
It’s a wonderful
tradition and one I look forward to every year.
Most importantly, it
signifies that baseball is just a couple of weeks away at East Carolina.
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