By Mick Mattaliano
This is an article no one wants to write and is more painful for its audience to read. This weekend, the VCU athletic community lost one of its leaders in Coach Paul Keyes. Many of us who had an opportunity to play for him, lost much more. It is hard to describe the influence Coach had on all our lives, and rather than speak for others, I’d rather just tell what impact he had on my life. I am certain it’s a story that many former players, coaches and anyone who had the chance to spend time with Coach Keyes would echo.
When I arrived as a freshman walk-on in 2004, Coach hardly took notice of me. While being young, I assumed it was because he didn’t like me. That was never the case with coach and freshmen; you had to earn his respect. As I wallowed on the bench for a year, I wondered if I had what it took to be a Division I baseball player, but more importantly, how was I going to make Coach take notice of me and think of me as a contributor.
My sophomore year, after resisting the temptation to transfer, I was determined to prove to Coach Keyes that I could be someone he could rely upon. Sure enough, halfway through the season I worked my way into being the No. 1 option out of the bullpen. After one dismal weekend performance at UNC Wilmington, Coach Keyes went on one of his epic rants, ripping the team. Every player knows these meetings well, because Coach would do it once a year, where he would basically go down the entire roster and find fault with something you were or were not doing.