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LeClair's 23 to Become Honorary Jersey Number
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LeClair's 23 to Become Honorary Jersey Number

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina University baseball jersey number 23 became a familiar sight around Greenville and eastern North Carolina last spring as it became a symbol of support for Keith LeClair, the Pirates' head coach at the time who continues to battle a neuromuscular disorder.

The number adorned T-shirts, banners, and signs as LeClair's Pirates overcame the odds and swept the Conference USA Tournament to earn ECU's first-ever C-USA title in any sport.

At LeClair's request, his jersey number will again be worn at Harrington Field. Current ECU head coach Randy Mazey, at the suggestion of LeClair, has announced that jersey number 23 will be awarded annually to a deserving player who best displays the hustle, determination, and desire that made LeClair a great coach and player.

"I think this is a great way to not only honor a player, but also to honor Keith and what he stands for at East Carolina," Mazey said. "The competitiveness and desire to take this program to the College World Series is what continues to drive Keith to this very day. I think having the fans see the number 23 on the field every day will show that he is still just as big a part of ECU baseball as he has always been."

For the coming season, the number has been awarded to senior outfielder Ben Sanderson.

Sanderson, a three-year letterman, is a career .347 hitter and batted .405 with seven stolen bases as a part-time starter in left field. He was named to the 2002 NCAA Clemson Regional All-Tournament team. He was also named to the 2001-02 C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll for his classroom work.

"Ben is the perfect candidate to wear the number," Mazey said. "His attitude and his desire are a direct reflection of Coach LeClair and he plays every game and comes to every practice like it his last. He has gotten more out of his ability as a baseball player than any player that I have ever coached. Ben is a warrior."

Citing health concerns, LeClair stepped down after five years as the Pirates' head coach this past June after leading ECU to a 212-93-1 record since taking over in 1998. Included in that span were four consecutive NCAA postseason appearances and four conference titles.

LeClair continues to serve in the ECU athletics department as a special assistant to Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick.