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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

ECU, Greenville Little League: The ties that bind


On many spring and summer nights, less than a mile from the East Carolina campus, Nick Floyd could get in big trouble for wearing purple and gold.

He may be the associate athletic director during the day, but in the evening Floyd is one of the assistant coaches for the Pepsi team in the Greenville Little League. And within the confines of Elm Street or Perkins Park, this Pirate better have on something red.

And he’s not the only Floyd with color confusion this time of year. His 12-year-old son Nixon plays for the Pepsi team, his wife Elizabeth serves as the president of the board for Greenville Little League and his 15-year-old daughter Suzanne works in the snack bar at the ball fields.

Youth sports are often criticized for cutting into quality family time. In the Floyds’ case, just the opposite has proven true, Nick Floyd said.

“It’s become something that is a lot of fun for our family,” he said. “We spend a lot of time together, which in this business it’s hard to do sometimes.”

When the Floyds moved to Greenville five years ago, Nick agreed to be an assistant coach for Nixon’s minor league team, but he thought it was something he would do for one season only. He took a year off but then was asked to coach again, the same year that Suzanne joined the board.

Over the years, Nick has discovered that he can fulfill his ECU commitments and also volunteer for Little League, in no small part because the baseball parks are so close to the university.

“Everything’s so close together,” Floyd said. “I don’t know of another place in the country where you could have the situation that we have here. On the night of the Little League opening ceremonies, Chancellor Ballard gave the opening remarks and we were having a Circle of Excellence function at Harvey Hall. I was going to take the chancellor across the street to Elm Street. Then Mayor Parrott asked if he could ride along, and then Grant Jarman wanted to come too, so the four of us rode over to the opening ceremonies and then went back to the function at Harvey Hall.”

Floyd has also decided to serve only as assistant coach because his ECU position does make it necessary to miss practice or games from time to time, he said. But often the pieces fit together like a puzzle; recently he went straight from his son’s Little League game to Clark-LeClair Stadium to catch the Pirates’ game against N.C. State.

The Floyds represent just one of the connections between ECU and Little League. Brian Weingartz, the commissioner of Greenville Little League, has worked full-time at ECU in the past and now works the scoreboard for Pirate basketball games and one of the clocks in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during football contests.

“Tons of our umpires and a fair number of our coaches are ECU graduates or current students,” Weingartz said. “If we didn’t have ECU, we wouldn’t have umpires, I don’t think.”

Chancellor Steve Ballard and athletic director Terry Holland have been the last two speakers for the spring opening ceremonies, connections that are certainly helped by the Floyds’ involvement with the league.

And this year, baseball coach Billy Godwin ushered in a new tradition: A free April baseball clinic that gave Little League players a chance to taste the intensity of the college game.

“The whole ECU team participated, and did some station drills, and every kid got a chance to get three cuts on the field with Coach Godwin throwing to them,” Nick said of the 125 young baseball players who participated in the clinic. “It was just a great experience for all the kids.”

And just as the Floyds watch kids progress by leaps and bounds through their four years in Little League, they know that some of the young athletes wearing red, green and blue this week could be donning a Pirate purple jersey one day.

“It’s fun to watch the nine-year-olds, it’s fun to watch the next year when they take a step, and then by the time they’re 11 they really get it, and then they hit that 12-year-old year,” Elizabeth Floyd said. “It’s a growth process. It just really is amazing.”

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02/23/2007 01:13:02 AM

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