Jan. 31, 2013


Memory of VCU’s Keyes Lives On

By Sean Ryan

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


RICHMOND, Va. – The life and legacy of longtime VCU baseball coach Paul Keyes (left) were on celebrated Thursday night.


A crowd of baseball fans that nearly matched Keyes’ 603 wins in 18 years with the Rams – including coaches from William & Mary, Longwood and Randolph-Macon – turned out for the third annual Hot Stove Banquet hosted by the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the city’s fanatical Double-AA franchise of the San Francisco Giants.


The event, which also featured Mississippi State legend Will Clark and current Squirrels Chris Heston (East Carolina) and Daryl Maday (Arkansas) among other players and coaches past and present, served as a benefit to raise money for the Paul Keyes Memorial Scholarship in honor of Keyes, who lost his battle with cancer in November at the age of 50.


“He wasn’t just the baseball coach at VCU, he was our brother and our friend,” said Todd “Parney” Parnell, vice president and COO of the Flying Squirrels, who share home field The Diamond with the Rams.


In addition to raising thousands of dollars for the scholarship fund, Parnell announced that the Flying Squirrels would wear special black and gold jerseys with Keyes’ No. 5 on the heart for their game on May 5 (5/5) and presented wife Trisha Keyes a framed jersey.


“Because that is where he is, in our heart,” said Parnell, named Minor League Executive of the Year by Baseball America in 2011.


Former Rams Cody Eppley, now with the New York Yankees, and Cla Meredith, who pitched in the majors for Boston, San Diego and Baltimore before an arm injury, returned to Richmond to share a few thoughts on their former coach.


“I knew Coach in a number of different ways, but really, he was a cool guy,” Meredith said. “He gave me an opportunity, and along with that opportunity, he allowed me to grow.”


Added Eppley: “Coach was one of a kind.”


VCU, which will play its first season in the Atlantic 10 this year, will be led by Shawn Stiffler, who was named head coach in December after serving six seasons as pitching coach. Stiffler spoke about Keyes’ desire that the program be left in the hands of the players, giving players not only an opportunity, but also maintaining a program where effort, accountability and integrity are rewarded.


Stiffler also spoke of Keyes’ impact on baseball in Richmond and all of Virginia, noting that everyone in the community seemed to know Keyes.


“Coach Keyes was like the Kevin Bacon of Richmond baseball,” Stiffler said. “You could get to him within a couple degrees of everyone.”


Keyes’ life will continued to be honored this season and beyond: Earlier in the week, VCU and Old Dominion announced the first Key Dog “Strike Out Cancer” Classic will be played on April 23 at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, Va. Keyes, from Hampton, starred at Old Dominion and was a very close friend and mentor of Monarchs coach Chris Finwood.


(photos courtesy of VCU Media Relations Office)