Feb 042013
 

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Jay Cannon talks to the crowd at the Meet the Pirates event after he was awarded the No. 23 jersey. (Elton Collins/The Daily Reflector)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jay Cannon admitted Saturday that some of the baseball accomplishments and trophies he has received have naturally lost some of their luster over time, but he said getting to wear No. 23 for the East Carolina baseball team this season is something he will cherish for the rest of his life.

Cannon, a senior and former transfer from Brunswick Community College, was awarded the No. 23 at the Meet the Pirates event at the Murphy Center. The number is worn in honor of Keith LeClair, who coached the Pirates from 1998-2002 before stepping down and eventually succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s Disease at age 40 in 2006.

Although he never met LeClair, Cannon said he understands his importance to the ECU community and Pirate baseball program.

“To me, this represents the faith of a man that I never had the privilege to meet, but I see his character in each person that I’m around on a consistent basis,” Cannon said. “He was so great and so selfless that I can only hope to live life as he did. … This gives me the opportunity to share my story, but more importantly it gives me the chance to share coach LeClair’s story and share the impact he had on other people’s lives.”

Ben Sanderson, now an East Carolina assistant coach, was the first player to wear the jersey in honor of LeClair in 2003. This marks the second straight year a junior college transfer has the honor, as Tim Younger wore it last season and was on hand Saturday to present the jersey to Cannon.
The Pirates are less than two weeks away from beginning their season, and Cannon said wearing No. 23 heightens his excitement for the Feb. 15 opening game against Virginia.

“I get to represent all the right things and try to win baseball games with the No. 23 on my back,” said Cannon, a Fuquay native. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Last season in his initial campaign as a Pirate, Cannon started 40 games and finished with a .308 batting average, but he missed part of the season because of an injury. He also played in the outfield, but has since shifted to the infield and is currently battling for the starting position at second base.

ECU head coach Billy Godwin said several candidates on this year’s club are worthy of wearing the No. 23 jersey, but Cannon’s worth ethic and passion helped make him the best choice.

“I think he’s the heart of our club,” said Godwin, whose team held a scrimmage Saturday afternoon for the fans who attended Meet the Pirates. “Last year he got hurt near the end of the year and he was hitting in the No. 5 hole for us, and we scuffled a little down the stretch. I remember saying right after he got hurt that he meant so much more than that .308 batting average, because of what he brought to our team every da

“I think that’s a testament to what he’s about, how he carries himself and what type of player he is.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

via The Daily Reflector.

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