Nov. 3, 2012
Paul Keyes succumbs to cancer
Phil Stanton: Remembering Paul Keyes
Remembering a Friend
By Sean Ryan
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
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)