Boone: Pirates on the cusp of greatness
[Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Ron Cherubini's
Time Machine No. 12'. The special feature package on former Pirate pitcher
Daniel Boone ran on Bonesville's front page Sunday, March 31,
Daniel Boone was
well aware of how good the East Carolina baseball program was when he came
from Fuquay-Varina High School to pitch for the Pirates in 1983.
Players like Winfred Johnson, Tommy Eason, Jake Jacobs, Jonathon Jenkins,
were on the roster for the perennial CAA contenders and regulars in the NCAA
regionals. But, as good as the teams of the preceding eras were, they were
not on the national radar screen… not like today’s club.
“How many teams in the country can say they were a number one seed for three
straight seasons,” Boone said. “Three… three! Stanford, Florida State, and
us — ECU. Within the NCAA baseball (network), ECU is known, but as far as
the pollsters, the writers, the college baseball fans, they don’t understand
the talent level that is here.”
Boone, like many of East Carolina's baseball alumni, takes great pride in
the state of the program today and even has to step back in amazement to
fully grasp what is unfolding in Greenville with the Diamond Bucs.
“The talent level is simply incredible,” he said. “I played with Winfred
Johnson, who I believe was the greatest college player I have ever seen…
kind of like getting a taste of what the Yankees must of felt like with Babe
Ruth. Winfred still holds the NCAA record for most pitching victories and
home runs in a season. But, when you look at the roster from top to bottom
today, it is truly amazing how talented this team is.”
Though Boone believes the Pirates have a long ways to go to be thought of in
the same category as the Clemsons and FSUs of the collegiate world, he
attributes the lower profile more to lack of name recognition than lack of
talent and success.
we can continue to be a number one or number two seed for the next couple of
years, our name could be out there like Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach
State, or Wichita State,” Boone said.
Boone, the credit for the success ultimately goes to the players on the
field, but he says that the coaching staff has done an incredible job of
taking ECU baseball to the cusp of the proverbial next level.
“The hardest thing for college kids to understand (is) that they each have a
role to play and you need to play that role to be successful,” said Boone.
“Coach (Keith) LeClair has taught them how to be that intricate little cog
on the great wheel. He and Coach (Tommy) Eason and Coach McMullan have got
these highly talented kids working as a team.
"They have been able to break it down and make them understand that they are
a bigger thing than just themselves. It is a hard lesson for a youngster to
learn and this staff has done that.”
Moreover, Boone believes there are some other key variables that have opened
the door for the Pirate baseball program.
think the biggest step we’ve made hands down is getting into Conference USA,
and that cannot be understated,” Boone said. “As good as the CAA was in
baseball, it is a regional conference. Conference USA is national league.
Now we are talking about playing teams day-in and day-out with name
"Playing Cincinnati, Houston, Tulane, and Louisville — that step helps us
nationally. We can’t be known just as a great team in North Carolina or on
the eastern seaboard. We were in a junior varsity league in the CAA, but now
you cannot say that anymore as one of our conference teams is in the top-5
"And, if we can get that stadium built, it will be especially helpful for
Boone also pointed to the last season’s post-season successes as keys to
unlocking the door to the next level.
was so important to get those Regionals here (in Kinston) because the big
donors got to see ECU baseball,” he said. “When they saw us against
Tennessee and got to see those kids and the fire those kids have, it clearly
re-sparked the interest in baseball. Our best chance — as Walter Williams
once said — our best chance to win a national championship here at ECU is in
Boone admits that he came out of an era when the baseball players didn’t
quite understand all the fuss about the Pirate football thing. The football
team was getting all the press despite 2-9 records while the baseball team
was a big-time winner. Frankly, the players just didn’t care much for that
other sport, even if it did pay all the bills.
is unbelievable what wanting to see a winner does to people,” Boone said in
reference to the enthusiasm that he ECU faithful has displayed for this
baseball program. “We can beat any team in the country. We can play anyone
and beat them two out of three. They can get through the region without a
problem. Coach LeClair has built that kind of depth here. You have
all-American players hoping that they can (come to ECU).
“The players deserve (the recognition) and the program deserves (the big
money investment) — even if it is a non-revenue sport,” he said. “I
understand, now, why football is king here, but this baseball program brings
a lot of attention to this university as well.”
Though Boone says he probably couldn’t even make today’s roster, he is proud
of the part he played in the history of ECU baseball.
gives you a lot of pride to be part of the tradition, and I take a lot of
pride in having played baseball at ECU and in the school in general,” he
said. “Being part of the ECU family is special.
personally think that this school is totally different from many schools.
When I’m in California and I see a guy in an ECU sweatshirt, I know he is
wearing it because he is a fan, not because Michael Jordan played there. It
is a passion thing, like one big family. And when you run into a Pirate, you
tend to go out of your way to talk to that person because you know how
passionate that person is about ECU.”
Boone takes an especially keen interest in today’s team because his nephew
Neal Sears is a pitcher for the Pirates.
“I’m tickled to death that Neal is involved in that and we can share that. I
am very proud of him,” he said. “And all those people out there in the
jungle and everyone that goes to the games and follows this team on the
road… they all share in the success of this program.”
Yes, ECU baseball has come a long way since Boone’s days and is positioned
to become one of the nation’s top programs. It’s been an exciting ride and,
as Boone pointed out, “we’re just getting started here.”
thing is for sure, Omaha looks a lot closer today then it ever did when
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02/23/2007 02:08:34 PM