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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
By Brian Bailey

Magic moments for the ages


Friday, March 4th will go down as one of those days that many of us will never forget.

I arrived at Clark-LeClair stadium a good hour and a half before game time just to walk around the park to see the new home for East Carolina baseball from several vantage points.

There isn’t a bad seat in the house.

It’s funny, but the baseball program was so good through the years for the most part, that you really didn’t notice the shortcomings of Harrington Field. Now, you wonder how coaches ever recruited with a facility like that.

The new Pirate “jewel” won’t have any problem luring recruits. It is like a smaller version of a big league park. It is stunningly beautiful, and is considered one of the top baseball venues in the nation.

I had heard the rave reviews, and they were all on target. Fans spent most of Friday morning gawking at the new “Pirate Palace” for baseball.

Pirate fans, like me, can be critical at times. But the stadium passed on all levels of criticism. I don’t think I heard one negative comment the entire weekend!

For my money, the best seats in the house are just behind the two dugouts. You’d better pay attention, though, because it feels like you are actually sharing third base duties with Mark Minicozzi.

The best part of the weekend was watching the opening ceremonies, which featured former Pirate Coach Keith LeClair.

I don’t get by to see the coach as often as I would like, but I did drop by on that Thursday before the home opener.

Brian Meador — my former co-worker at WNCT-TV who is now at WITN-TV — and I went by and gave Coach LeClair the Boston Red Sox World Series DVD. LeClair, a huge Red Sox fan, says the curse is now with my beloved Cubs.

Coach LeClair said the DVD couldn’t be more the 15 minutes long, because that’s about how long it took Boston to whip St. Louis in the World Series. We laughed, and knew the coach had a great point. ALS robbed Keith of so many things, but his personality still shines through.

Keith told me to make sure that I got a good shot of his children, Audrey and J.D., as they were throwing out the first pitch in the new stadium.

Lynn, Keith’s wife, said there was a little sibling rivalry about the pitch. Audrey went with an off speed pitch, while J.D. threw a hard one low and away. They were both naturals on the mound.

The most defining moment of the weekend was seeing Coach LeClair back on the field at East Carolina. Fittingly, he was wrapped in a Pirate blanket. Lynn pushed the wheelchair to home plate as the crowd gave the coach a standing ovation.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It was one of those situations in life where you don’t look around. You’re certainly not ashamed to cry because the emotions were overwhelming.

Keith LeClair had a vision to move Pirate baseball to another level. On this Friday in March, Coach LeClair was there to see it.

With a sparkling new gem of a ballpark, the pressure was on Randy Mazey’s club to put on a good show.

They did just that!

The Pirates opened the park on that Friday with a thrilling 2-1 win over a very good and underrated Michigan team.

Coach Mazey said it was fitting that the ball park was inaugurated with an “old fashioned” type of game.

The Pirates lost the second game of the Keith LeClair Classic to Arizona State 10-3. I’m certainly not making excuses, but I could swear that I heard the voice of former NFL Films great John Facenda at one point, in his deep voice, intoning about the “frozen tundra of Clark-LeClair Stadium.”

It was brutally cold, and the umpire was making Mike Flye put the baseball in about a five inch square before he would call a strike. It was a long, cold night for the Pirates.

East Carolina bounced back nicely on Sunday, whipping Georgia 7-1. The victory put an exclamation point on an outstanding weekend of baseball.

Clark-LeClair Stadium is a “Field of Dreams.” In the movie, Ray Kinsella heard the voices saying, “If you build it he (they) will come.”

Pirate fans came in droves for the Classic, as each days attendance bested the school record. Despite the cold, Saturday night’s game featured the largest baseball crowd in school history.

If you haven’t made it out to the ballpark yet, you need to do so. Clark-LeClair Stadium is the crown jewel for collegiate baseball. It indeed rivals anything, anywhere.

Credit also goes out to the Bill Clark family, for donating 1.5 million dollars towards the facility, and for getting Coach LeClair’s name on the park.

East Carolina will get to Omaha someday soon.

On the way, the Pirates and their fans will enjoy what will be an awesome regional and super regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium!

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02/23/2007 01:31:35 AM

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