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Read Henry Hinton's feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant in Bonesville Magazine.

Henry's Highlights
Friday, January 28, 2005

By Henry Hinton

LeClair legacy still leading to milestones


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As excitement builds around Greenville for the opening of Clark-LeClair Stadium and the debut of Randy Mazey's 2005 team, there's also another tangible sign of growth in the East Carolina baseball program.

The university announced this week a landmark broadcasting agreement for ECU baseball. For the first time, every game will be aired over the Pirate Sports Radio Network.

Being a part of the negotiations and decision-making on this, I was reminded of some history with regard to the baseball radio broadcasts.

It is yet another tribute to Keith LeClair.

It is hard to believe now but when Coach LeClair came to Greenville in 1998 there was some skepticism about his hiring. Not only had he replaced Gary Overton, the winningest coach in Pirate history, but he was not the sentimental favorite of many in the Pirate community.

Former ECU player Billy Best had been the odds-on favorite to replace his old coach, Overton, when the job came open. Best was an assistant at N.C. State and had many friends and supporters lobbying the administration on his behalf.

Coming from Western Carolina, LeClair was not a total unknown to ECU folks but few had followed his career to that point.

The first season was predictably rocky for LeClair. In fact, I recall several ‘baseball people’ more or less shunning the new head coach due to frayed nerves left over from the Best rejection.

It was between his first and second seasons that Coach LeClair approached me about broadcasting more games on the radio. At that time, our company owned WCZI-FM and we had established wall to wall coverage for other ECU sports.

“You know at Western we had nearly every game on the radio,” LeClair said to me in the meeting.

To that point, WCZI had aired approximately 10 games per year for ECU baseball. Looking back, I can understand that he must have been thinking that was a pretty miserable commitment to the program compared to what we were doing for football and basketball.

His enthusiasm alone was the determining factor in our decision to ‘step to the plate.’

In his first year in Greenville, his team had set an ECU record for the most losses (29) and I remember thinking: 'Who is going to listen to this?' But LeClair seemed special and I figured if he was that excited about his program, maybe I should be, too.

That season we aired about 25 games that culminated in an amazing run by the Pirates to the NCAA Regionals at LSU. To this day, I believe that first game played against LSU in the late May tournament was the single most exciting sporting event I have ever witnessed.

The Pirates upset the Tigers 11-10 in that game after Lee Delfino hit a late home run and Erik Bakich drove in the winning run in the last inning with a single to right field.

Memories of that broadcast are etched in my memory. Jake Jacobs and I were calling the game from atop the stands in Alex Box Stadium within earshot of the rabid LSU fans.

We were screaming at the top of our lungs to the listening audience back home that the Pirates had done the unthinkable — upset LSU on its home field.

Suddenly, we realized that the fans sitting around us were staring at us — and they did not seem to be sharing our exuberance. We learned quickly that they love their baseball at LSU and they don’t like losing on their home field. We literally had to be escorted from the stadium by security officers that day.

LSU athletics director Joe Dean assigned us security for the rest of the tournament, but we didn’t need it. ECU ran out of pitching that weekend and lost the next two games to the Tigers, who went on to the College World Series.

That season started an uphill trip for ECU that has taken the program to a national level. That particular weekend also had a hand in the building of our new stadium. ECU had been a number one seed that weekend but the NCAA had sent the Pirates halfway across the country to play in one of the toughest venues in America.

The need and idea for a first-class stadium in Greenville was born.

Again, it was LeClair who made it happen.

One other memory from that weekend in Baton Rouge that is still vivid for me is the post-game celebration after that 11-10 victory. Coach LeClair said to me that day that the celebration should have been taking place in Greenville instead of Louisiana.

Now, the Pirates will not have to play away from home if they are a number one seed. Construction on Clark-LeClair stadium is nearly complete. That part of LeClair’s dream will soon be a reality.

When the university asked if we would carry the entire baseball schedule this year on Talk 1070, my thoughts turned to those early conversations and great moments with my friend Keith LeClair.

How could I say no?


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02/23/2007 10:16:01 AM

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