Virginia Commonwealth University Head Baseball Coach Paul Keyes passed away early Saturday afternoon after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 50 years old.
The Rams' all-time winningest coach with 603 career victories, Keyes spent 18 seasons at the helm of VCU's baseball program. During his tenure as head coach, he led the Black and Gold to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and five Colonial Athletic Association championships. He was also a four-time CAA Coach of the Year.
After serving as an assistant coach from 1985-91, Keyes returned to VCU as head coach in 1995. He became the program's winningest coach in nine seasons when he picked up his 330th victory on May 4, 2003. Keyes elevated VCU to not only one of the best programs in the state of Virginia, but also along the East Coast, winning nearly 60 percent of its games over the last 15 years. Under his guidance, VCU boasted 12 straight winning seasons from 1996-2007 and won 40-plus games on four occasions.
Recognized as an excellent teacher, recruiter and mentor, 36 of Keyes' former players have gone on to play professional baseball, including six in the Major Leagues.
Sunday, those that knew Keyes best reflected on memories of him as a coach, teacher and friend. Former VCU pitcher Cla Meredith, who pitched for the Rams from 2002-2004 and now resides in Richmond, said that he grew close with Keyes, especially after leaving VCU and returning to visit. He said Keyes served as a father figure when he was in college and he learned things from him about being an adult and becoming a man, which were as valuable as his on-the-field lessons.
Stiffler, who spent six seasons as an assistant for Keyes, said that he remembers three sides of his former boss: Coach Keyes, who was on the baseball field, Paul Keyes, who was his friend and a loving father and husband, and "Keydog," Keyes nickname that represented the more fun side of him, in the front rows of concerts and on the golf course.
A native of Newport News, Va., he is survived by his wife, Trisha and three children, Paul Jr., MacKenzie and Kyle.
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