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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
By Brian Bailey

Poignant ceremony opens baseball season

By Brian Bailey
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Baseball’s “Meet the Pirates” luncheon has officially outgrown the Murphy Center on campus.

About 500 fans jammed the banquet hall on Saturday afternoon to get their first real glimpse of this 2007 East Carolina baseball program.

It was standing room only as Pirate coach Billy Godwin addressed the crowd. Coach Godwin introduced each player by class, and then talked about a coaching staff that he said was as good as any in the nation.

The luncheon also provided a platform for the annual awarding of the number 23, to honor former Pirate coach Keith LeClair.

It’s still hard to believe that Coach LeClair is no longer with us. He continued to be a rock of faith as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, ravaged his body. He was such an inspiration to all of us. I can’t imagine what it would be like to wear 23.

Junior pitcher Chris Powell can. Coach Godwin handed off to last year’s number 23, Adam Witter, who presented 23 to Powell.

Powell was obviously thrilled with the honor. He found out a couple of days before the presentation. He decided to tell his Dad, but not his Mom, who found out at the same time as the rest of the crowd. Powell joked that he hoped his Mom didn’t have a heart attack after hearing the news.

“It’s really a combination of a lifetime of working hard,” Powell said. “There’s been a lot of pride and success in this program and I’m just looking to work hard this season. Everyone’s working hard and I don’t see any reason why we should be stopped this year from where we want to go.”

Coach Godwin was pleased that the decision was a difficult one.

“It was a tough decision, which tells you a lot about the character of our baseball program," Godwin said. "There were a lot of good candidates on this team.”

A glaring example of the type of player that has worn the number 23 is that two of the five honorees are now on the Pirate coaching staff. Ben Sanderson is a volunteer assistant coach and Brian Cavanaugh is the Director of Baseball Operations for Godwin.

The other three players to wear 23 in honor of LeClair are Witter, Jamie Paige and now Powell.

“I’m fortunate this year to have two guys that have worn 23 on my staff,” said Godwin. “I talked to them, and my other coaches. It was a total coaching decision. We looked at many different things. But with Chris, it was like, check, check, check… Every time we came up with something, he got a check for those criteria.”

The Pirates are getting set to embrace the toughest baseball schedule in school history. They play a three-game series at UCLA in February. ECU also hosts three-game sets with Cal State Fullerton, Michigan and Rice. Add in home and homes with UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State and the spring should be hopping at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

East Carolina opens the season with a three-game series against Liberty a week from Friday.

“I’m ready to go,” said Godwin, “but we still need these two weeks. I like where our team is right now. We certainly have some work to do. I’m going to be optimistic. I really feel that this team can do some good things.”

Against this schedule, the Pirates will have to do great things at times. It’s going to be tough but this ECU team certainly has a chance to get back into the NCAA regionals.

Perhaps Godwin said it best when he addressed the big crowd.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t take the field thinking we want to win a regional, and win a super regional, and play at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha,” Godwin said.

Somewhere, Keith LeClair was nodding in agreement. He came close and, more importantly, he moved the program to a higher level of thinking.

Here’s looking forward to an exciting spring at Clark-LeClair Stadium!


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04/21/2008 07:04:07 PM


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