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Pirate
Time
Machine
No. 12

With Ron Cherubini
©2001 Bonesville.net

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Daniel Boone:
Family Connection Refuels Pirate Passion

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Though it can be said for all East Carolina baseball fans that the last three seasons have been something very special, it has been particularly enjoyable for one former Pirate.

Daniel Boone, a tenacious right-hander in the mid-1980s, has been pitching by proxy in the form of current hurler Neal Sears, and the experience has not only stirred memories of his playing days, but has also rekindled his love and connection to the East Carolina family.

Bloodlines tend to be a much tighter tether in the South, and for Boone, when his nephew Neal decided to take his abilities to East Carolina, there was a wash of pride and passion that poured over the former Pirate pitcher.

Boone with family, including nephew, Neal Sears (2nd from right)

“I love watching (Neal) play,” Boone said. “Neal and I are as close as any uncle and nephew can be and when I watch him pitch, I love it. I go (to Greenville) when he is pitching and I always catch (the games) in our area here (around Raleigh). But (watching), it can be painful, too. Not physically (painful), but mentally.

“When I see Neal struggle, it kills me because I know, really know, what it is like to be out there struggling. When you are a pitcher, it is a totally different game. If an infielder makes an error, people don’t remember it. When you are on the mound and not having a good game, people remember and it can be brutal.”

When Boone watches, he feels the emotions and sometimes, when a Pirate hurler is struggling, he feels his right elbow act up a little.

That damn elbow.

As a sophomore at Fuquay-Varina High School, Boone was a key cog in a three-pitcher rotation that carried then-young head coach Milton Center’s Bengal Tigers to the state championship. Though the club fell to Cherryville in two-straight games, the pitcher/infielder Boone was named an all-state honorable mention. Along with the success came some professional scouts.

Though Boone never thought that the pros were an option in high school, the visits from the talent scouts did serve to inspire the young standout.

“I received a lot of interest from pro scouts and went to some camps and things like that,” Boone said. “That’s when I started to feel like I had potential to go to college. I wanted to go to school and was not interested in playing pro baseball out of high school. I really wanted to go to school and it was really important to my parents that I go to college. They were very blue collar and (college) was very important to them.”

Boone, who always wanted to be an engineer, dreamed of going to Clemson. And for the remainder of his prep career, the Tigers recruited him.

“I was recruited to go to Clemson by coach (Bill) Wilhelm, and he even came to a football game to talk to me, which was great,” Boone said. “I admired how honest he was in recruiting me. He personally called me and told me that his scholarships were full, but would love to have me come down and walk onto the team. I really wanted to go there because I admired their program so much, and I wanted to be an engineer, but there was really no way I could go without money.”

So with Clemson out of the picture, Boone pinned his hopes of an engineering degree and baseball on North Carolina State.

“After (Clemson fell through), I hoped that State would be interested because of the engineering school, but that didn’t work out,” Boone said. “East Carolina showed the most interest in me and had offered me a scholarship, so I went there. And from the get-go, I loved it.

“It was a big college… a Division I college. Orientation was great and the campus had charm. It was like you dream about… going off to college.”

The dream-like atmosphere quickly ended for Boone in the form of then-head coach Hal Baird, whose blunt approach served as a wakeup style welcome to big-time college baseball.

“Day one was intimidating for me,” Boone said. “Everyone who goes (to ECU) was a superstar in high school. But in college, it is a whole different ball game. You are just one of a bunch of egos. That was the toughest adjustment. The thought that you might be on the bench and not getting much playing time.”

And, it didn’t help Boone’s case that an aching elbow had him pinning his collegiate hopes on landing a job on third base despite being brought in by Baird to throw the baseball.

“Baird was a very… well… you were afraid to talk to him,” Boone said. “He acknowledged the upperclassmen, but as a freshman, you were a nobody unless you were a superstar.

"(Baird) was just not very approachable. I respected him a lot. He played pro ball and was good friends with (former Kansas City hall-of-famer) George Brett and everyone knew he was a tremendous player when he was at ECU. But, he was the type of coach that would stand behind second base with a clipboard writing down every mistake every player made.

"You knew if you screwed up, he was going to write it down. Everyone was afraid to mess up.”

All of one day into his first fall practice, Boone broke his foot chasing down a foul ball on the third-base line, sidelining him until October. He got little playing time that season.

He moved to right field his sophomore season, but saw a senior in the lineup ahead of him. Boone requested a redshirt for the season, holding out hope that he would become an everyday player in right field. But that would also never materialize.

“I was a great pitcher in high school and Baird wanted me to come to ECU to pitch,” Boone said. “I didn’t want to pitch because my arm would get so sore. But, I was really a better pitcher than anything else.

“My freshman year, I didn’t play hardly at all, then redshirted my sophomore year. I did not like not playing. I could tell through the fall that I was not going to play and that I would be a backup, and I didn’t want to do that.”

A change at the helm had occurred with Baird resigning and assistant Gary Overton taking over.

“I came to the realization that if I pitched, I would play,” Boone said. “So, during my fall meeting with Coach Overton, he asked me if I wanted to pitch and I told him I didn’t want to sit on the bench for my whole career. So, I pitched.”

Much like his sophomore season in high school, Boone saw his best collegiate season that year. That season, Boone posted a 5-1 record on the hill and, in large part, credits Overton for that success.

Daniel Boone, Fisherman

“My first appearance was against North Carolina State,” Boone said acknowledging the irony. “I didn’t make it past the first inning.

" They had a couple of infield hits, then I walked a guy, and then a base hit and I’m out of the game. It was my first, and only, loss my sophomore year.

"I didn’t get shelled but I didn’t excel either, but Coach Overton kept me in the rotation and had faith in me.”

Overton’s faith in his young pitcher yielded a strong season from Boone. And that faith is something that has endeared Overton to his former player.

“The thing I always admired about Coach Overton is that he is a guy who absolutely loves baseball,” Boone said. “He was a true student of the game and took a lot of pride in trying to teach kids and players. He really cared about the kids and developing them as a player. He was the one that gave me the opportunity to play and that has always meant a lot to me.

“That man loves East Carolina and he loves East Carolina baseball.”

The inspired sophomore came back to throw a complete-game victory over Purdue and it validated his coach’s decision to stick with him. Boone locked into the rotation as the fourth starter, the off starter, and would come out of the bullpen now and then.

In retrospect, Boone sees his sophomore year as one that showed his great potential and revealed his limitations.

His arm couldn’t stand up to the wear and during the summer prior to his junior season; it went from bad to worse.

“Something just happened,” he recalled. “It was never really the same again. I struggled all junior year and had surgery. I pitched sparingly and it was a struggle ever time out.”

Hope returned for Boone in his senior season. He earned the number two spot in the rotation, but required so much rest between innings that his coach and teammates started calling him “grandpa.”

“If you asked Coach Overton, he would say I was a bear on the mound who would do anything to win,” Boone said. “But he would also say that I needed an ice truck to pitch again. He still kids me about that today.”

Though the Pirates went to the Regionals that season, Boone really regrets that he couldn’t have contributed more in his postseason opportunities.

“I won some conference games that season, even though my arm was shot toward the end of the season. I felt like I contributed (to the Regionals), but I struggled as a starter. I would go out there and get hit hard — even though I felt like I always did. I just didn’t have it anymore… it was like someone just flipped a light switch and I didn’t have it anymore. It was the toughest time of my career.”

Today, times are not so tough on Boone. He is back home now, back in Fuquay-Varina, working in Raleigh. He is putting to good use his electrical engineering degree he earned at UNC-Charlotte after he graduated from ECU. He accomplished his dream of becoming an engineer.

Now, he uses those skills to make life a little safer for all of us. His company specializes in safety certifications for products. Personally, Boone has worked on certifying the safety of electric signs and temporary power taps among other things.

“I went to Charlotte to follow my dream to be an electrical engineer,” he said. “That was an experience going back to college at 22 years old and starting over essentially. That was a great experience.”

After school, with his degree in hand, he returned home where he met and later married his wife, Ruth.

“I wanted to come back home — always did,” Boone said. “I met Ruth right after I graduated from Charlotte and I don’t know if I could have met anybody who I am as much alike. We are very compatible. I couldn’t be happier.”

Daniel Boone enjoying the snow with wife, Ruth.

Being home was huge for Boone, whose family is very tight. So tight, that his sister – Neal Sears’ mother – lives just five houses up the road. His nephew’s choice to pitch for the Pirates has reconnected him to his alma mater and rekindled his love for his university.

“(An athlete) always second guesses things, but I loved ECU. I loved playing there, I loved the guys I played with, and Coach Overton,” he said. “I still talk to my catcher, Jim Riley, and I am close with Steve Sides (2nd base), who is now Dr. Sides. And Chubbie, who is out in Oklahoma, and I are still great friends. I don’t regret it one moment. When I found out Neal was going to go to ECU and play for coach (Keith) LeClair, I was excited. It has been great.”

Boone now is a very active member in the Wake County Pirate Club and gets out to as many games as possible. He is an avid golfer, sporting an impressive four handicap, which helped him qualify for the North Carolina Amateur. And he is back home, working in a job that he loves.

And when he watches his nephew fire a pitch for today’s Pirates, he knows that his contributions to the program were, indeed, valuable.


Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

Click here to dig into Ron Cherubini's Bonesville archives.
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Pirate Baseball: On
the cusp of greatness?
"... Our best chance — as Walter Williams once said — our best chance to win a national championship here at ECU is in baseball...” — Daniel Boone

Special Sidebar: Daniel Boone's
inspired perspective on ECU...

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DANIEL BOONE BIO BOX
Name:

Daniel Boone, (Boonie, Grandpa)
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Age:

38
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Sport:

Baseball
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Years at ECU:

1983-87
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Position/Jersey No.

Right-handed Pitcher / No. 13
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Hometown:

Fuquay-Varina, NC
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Currently Resides:

Fuquay-Varina, NC
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Occupation:

Electrical Engineer, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
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Degree(s)
  • BS Industrial Technology, ECU

  • BSEE, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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Marital Status:

Married
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Significant Other:

Ruth
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Children:

No kids, but does have a well-loved American Eskimo Spitz named Forrest


Boone with Ruth and family dog, Forrest
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Quotable: 

“The thing I always admired about Coach Overton is that he was a guy who absolutely loves baseball. That man loves East Carolina and he loves East Carolina baseball.”
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TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“My nephew (pitcher) Neal Sears because of his dedication. He has matured as a young man and has developed not only as a baseball player but also as a student. He has worked so hard to get where he is. Nowadays, it is difficult to succeed without doing all the behind-the-scenes work. I admire him for (all the effort he has put in).”
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2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“I miss the contact with all of my friends. If people ask me what I remember the most about playing college baseball, it is no question the friends I met playing baseball and the fun we had together. The locker room. I missed that a lot. It’s like a being in a fraternity, seeing those guys on a daily basis. You really just can’t re-create that (environment) once you are out in the real world.”
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3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“No, I really didn’t have a favorite spot on campus.”
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4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“301 Belk… I think… I know it was the front left corner of the third floor. Stories? There were so many… and some I can’t tell.”
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5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate baseball player?

“I’d have to say it was during my sophomore year. That year was my best year as an actual player, performing on the field. We had made it to the tournament in the conference. The tournament was at Harrington Field, and New York Tech had come down and we were down fairly late in the game. I came in with the bases loaded and no outs and struck out the side. We came back and won that game.

"The thing I remember more than anything was when we came back from the locker room to watch the next game and there were people there still from our game and they stood and clapped for me. It was a tremendous moment for me in my career. And of course getting my first win against Purdue was big.”
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6. Most disliked opponent?

“Well… I know what I want to say… well… no question — N.C. State. They somewhat recruited me and it didn’t work out. They always thought they were better than they were in our eyes. And of course, UNCW was our biggest conference rival. No question.”
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7. Athletic Influences?

“As far as just playing baseball and someone I admired locally would be my uncle, Sherril Jones, who I always thought was a great ballplayer. He had all the talent to make it to the Majors, but it didn’t work out for him. He actually got to the final cut at a tryout for a club in Florida but got homesick and came back. I always admired him for his abilities and the person he was. And my brother, Frankie, who went to Salem School. He was quite a bit older than me and was like a father figure to me. He was quite a player… tremendous.”
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8. Favorite coach?

“Coach (Gary) Overton, no question. I always felt that Coach Overton understood me and admired my tenacity. That is why he stuck with me even after some bad outings… I still think a lot of Coach Overton.”
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9. Best Locker Room Story

“We always had a lot of stuff going on in the locker room. I can tell one on my buddy. A friend of mine, Charles Butler (pitcher), who we called ‘Chubbie’, had been warming up in the bullpen. He came in to a guy with a 3-0 count on the batter and this tells you about Coach (Hal) Baird a little. He threw one pitch, a high pitch, and Coach Baird came out and asked Chubbie, ‘How you feel?’ And he said, ‘Pretty good coach.’ And Baird said, ‘You ain’t got sh--!’ and took him out of the game. One pitch, that was it. That was Coach Baird. He was a tough man to play for sometimes because you never knew what he was thinking until he hit you in the face with it.”
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10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“We hung out at Pantana Bob’s a little bit and of course the Elbow (Room) was good now and then. And then Chico’s to eat.”
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02/23/2007 02:08:34 PM

 

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