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The truly wonderful tradition of awarding one Pirate baseball player the
chance to wear the number 23 for a season continued this past weekend.
Keith LeClair’s legacy at East Carolina and his dream of going to Omaha
lives on each season when one player takes on the number 23.
Senior pitcher Ryan Williams was awarded that honor at this weekend’s
“Meet the Pirates” event for baseball. Williams made a significant
contribution last year as a weekend starter for the Pirates. His work
ethic and attitude towards the program paid dividends with this latest
Williams was emotional when he faced the crowd to accept the jersey.
“There’s no way to really describe in words really how much of an honor
it is,” he told the media afterwards. “It’s something every player in
our locker room strives to be like Coach LeClair. Being able to wear
this jersey, there’s nothing more that I would want in my time at ECU.”
The number 23 has gone to the Pirate baseball player that best displays
the hustle, determination and desire that made Keith LeClair both a
great player at Western Carolina and a great coach at ECU. LeClair was
diagnosed with ALS in 2002 and lost his courageous battle in July of
Pirate head coach Billy Godwin has embraced the tradition since his
first days as the Pirate coach.
“It is who we are,” said Godwin. “Coach LeClair and what he did for our
program and what he meant is what we are about here. I think it’s really
important that all of our former players and anybody who laid a brick in
the history of this great program to know our history…. It fires me up.”
“Ryan is very passionate about East Carolina,” Godwin said. “He has a
champion’s heart with a great work ethic, whose selfless approach is
contagious. He embodies all the characteristics (determination and
desire) associated with wearing the No. 23 jersey, and will wear it with
great pride and help carry on its legacy within the ECU community.”
Williams transferred to East Carolina from West Valley College. He
appeared in 18 games last season, making 15 starts. He had a 6-2 record
with a 4.50 ERA during his first year in the Pirate program. Williams
gave up 55 runs (48 earned) in 96.0 innings and struck out 45 batters
while walking just 17 – ranking second in Conference USA.
Williams becomes the ninth senior and 11th Pirate to wear the honorary
No. 23 jersey. Others who have been honored include current ECU
assistant coach Ben Sanderson (2003), Jamie Paige (2004), Brian
Cavanaugh (2005), Adam Witter (2006), Chris Powell (2007), Drew Schieber
(2008), Brandon Henderson (2009), two-time winner Austin Homan
(2010-11), Timothy Younger (2012) and Jay Cannon (2013).
Our first chance to see No. 23 in action will come this weekend, weather
permitting. East Carolina plays host to James Madison to open the 2014
baseball season with games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Williams is expected to see plenty of action in relief in this opening
series, but he is not scheduled to start.
“We think Ryan will be a lot like (former Pirate) Brad Mincey,” said ECU
pitching coach Dan Roszel. “You’ll see plenty of No. 23 this season.”
The first weekend rotation is set. The Pirates will go with Jeff Hoffman
on Friday, David Lucroy on Saturday and then Tyler Bolton on Sunday.
Lefty Reid Love is expected to start against Campbell next week.
The Pirates practiced on Monday, the team’s normal day off. Bad weather
is expected to start Tuesday and could go all the way into Thursday.
Hopefully, the weather will clear and we’ll have baseball for the
weekend in Greenville, beginning on Friday afternoon.