Nov. 3, 2012

Paul Keyes succumbs to cancer

Phil Stanton: Remembering Paul Keyes

Remembering a Friend

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder @collbaseball

RICHMOND, Va. – Over the past few months, there were good days and bad days.


It seemed that Oct. 3 was a good day. I had offered to meet a friend for lunch, or bring lunch by. He countered with a text that read: “Just come by practice tonite.”


Work, family and life got in the way that night. And I was sure I’d see my friend soon.


But, time ran out for Paul Keyes on Saturday. VCU’s baseball coach for the past 18 years passed away from cancer after being diagnosed in the spring.


A few days after my last text exchange, Keydog took a turn for the worse. Pain was increasing, options were running out. And time, well, time was precious.


My relationship with Paul spans 18 years, starting when I played against his VCU Rams and continuing when this website became a reality. In between, I coached against his son Paul Jr. in high school and had conversations ranging from high school recruiting to what to do about Richmond’s aging minor league ballpark.


On the field, Paul was a competitor. His teams scrapped and played with a chip on their shoulder, knowing they were good, always fighting to prove it. Paul’s Rams made eight trips to the NCAA tournament and racked up 12 straight winning seasons from 1996-2007 (including four seasons of 40-plus wins). He also was partly responsible for ending my playing career, as his Rams eliminated my Richmond squad from the 1996 CAA tournament.


At the Wilson Regional in 2003, I’ll never forget how upset he was after the Rams, featuring future major leaguer Sean Marshall, lost a second-day game to host NC State. Paul thought the Wolfpack and NCAA strategically placed a black hitter’s background on the outfield just in time to face the lefty Marshall – the batter’s eye wasn’t there the day before. After the game, Paul said, “It’s totally unprofessional” and likened it to a golf tourney moving the pin position to benefit the leader who already had finished his round. He was hot, knowing that his team was good enough to play with any team in the country but was one loss from elimination.


He was more reserved in his final NCAA appearance, one that saw his Rams travel an hour down the road to Charlottesville in 2010. After a loss to Virginia to open the tourney, Paul dropped by my reporting perch on the concourse at Davenport Field and took a seat. There, we talked baseball for an hour or more, him mixing in bits of scouting, me soaking in baseball knowledge while we watched Army and St. John’s. He marveled at Virginia, reminiscing about the days when baseball was an afterthought in Charlottesville and how on that day, in 2010, Virginia could be counted among the nation’s elite. 


Paul’s passion for baseball was palpable.


I feel fortunate to have seen it as a player, when he and his pitchers seemed to exploit all my weaknesses. And as a reporter covering his teams, which featured future major leaguers like Marshall, Brandon Inge, Cla Meredith, Jason Dubois and Scott Sizemore. And as a coach, remembering how he beamed while watching son Paul Jr. play high school ball at Atlee High School. And most important as a friend, who took time to help with this website in its early days – our Open Dates feature is in large part due to Paul’s recommendation for such a listing – and took time to recruit the players I coach in high school and took time to simply talk baseball.


I’m going to miss that passion. But I know that passion has left a legacy, a legacy that won’t be forgotten for a long, long time.

(photos courtesy of VCU Media Relations Office)