April 6, 2010
Cullowhee, N.C. - Former Western Carolina University baseball player and coach Keith LeClair will be remembered on Saturday, April 10 at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. LeClair's inspirational life, which ended in 2006 at age 40 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), has been chronicled in Coaching Third: The Keith LeClair Story, a book released last month.
The book's author, Bethany Bradsher, and LeClair's widow, Lynn, will be in Jackson County to talk about the book this weekend. They will appear Saturday at City Lights in Sylva from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. and at WCU's Childress Field/Hennon Stadium at 2:00 p.m. prior to WCU's Southern Conference Southern Conference game with Wofford. Lynn LeClair taught in Jackson County Schools during her husband's coaching tenure at WCU.
Copies of Coaching Third: The Keith LeClair Story will be available for purchase at both sites and signing by both Bradsher and Lynn LeClair. The cost of the book is $15.00 dollars and only cash and checks will be accepted.
LeClair played baseball at Western Carolina in the 1985 through 1988 season, posting a career .375 career batting average, claiming the Southern Conference Baseball Championship Tournament Most Valuable Player award in 1988 and was a key player in the Catamounts' unprecedented four Southern Conference Baseball Championships and four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. He played in the Atlanta Braves organization in 1988 before returning to WCU the following year to become an assistant baseball coach under Jack Leggett.
LeClair became the nation's youngest NCAA Division I head baseball coach at age 25 in the summer of 1991 when Leggett left for Clemson University. His first WCU team won a school record 44 games in 1992, took both the Southern Conference's regular season championships, advanced all the way to the championship game of the NCAA South Region Tournament and finished 17th nationally.
He coached the Catamounts to three SoCon regular season championships, three SoCon tournament championships, four trips to NCAA regional tournaments and 229 wins in six seasons. He also was named Southern Conference Baseball Coach of the Year three times.
LeClair left WCU prior to the 1998 season to become East Carolina University's head baseball coach. In five seasons at ECU, he led the Pirates to 212 wins and four consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, 1999-2002. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2001. Ironically, Bob Waters, WCU's head football coach during LeClair's collegiate playing career, died from the same disease in 1989.
Bradsher, a journalist and sportswriter for 20 years, spent more than a year writing the book. The story, told in 10 chapters, LeClair's love for baseball, his Lou Gehrig's Disease battle and his life's beliefs. She personally talked to 63 people about Keith LeClair's childhood in New Hampshire, his college years in Cullowhee and triumphs and trials in Greenville and at ECU. "His life was too short and his death at age 40 still leaves a gaping hole in the lives of his family and close friends. But while Keith's story is marked by sadness, it is also characterized by laughter in the most surprising places, and lives that will forever be more generous, less petty and more focus on faith because they intersected the journey of Keith LeClair," she said.
The book was released March 5 during the Keith LeClair Baseball Classic in Greenville, NC.