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Coach Harold Ellen rememberedBy Dan Kelly
Former UNCP baseball coach Harold Ellen, 75, died on Jan. 17 in the Duke Medical Center from complications concerning his heart and kidneys, according to his son Rodney Ellen.
Ellen leaves behind his wife Patsy and three sons Rodney, Rick and David.
“Back in the day, he was still doing things back in the day,” Kenney said.
Ellen was also a believer in the fundamentals of baseball whether that involved sacrificing runners or leaving successful pitchers in games, Kenney said.
Current Lumberton mayor and former UNCP athletic director and baseball coach Ray Pennington remained close friends of Ellen, who was the assistant coach of Pennington in 1968.
He was “one of the good old boys from the old school of baseball,” Pennington said.
Ellen had an undying commitment to the university, which is evident from not only his long coaching career, but his continued teaching at UNCP through the education department after coaching.
“I know it’s not anatomically or physiologically possible to bleed black and gold. But Harold Ellen bled black and gold,” Kenney said.
He also remained in the coaching community right up until his death, as he attended the National Baseball Convention in Orlando, Fla., on the weekend of Jan. 6.
Although Ellen’s baseball accomplishments are worth mentioning, the man beneath the baseball cap is truly memorable.
He was “as good a husband and father you could ever ask for,” said Rodney Ellen, “On the field (he was) a fierce competitor, off the field your best friend.”
An intersection between the two was revealed by Kenney, as Ellen once decided to end an extra-inning baseball game in a tie so his players could eat at the cafeteria before it closed.
Ellen was also one of the first coaches Kenney could remember using females in his baseball program as he replaced the usual bat boys with bat girls.
He also would keep bubble gum and candy on hand in his office for any small child he would see walking around the athletic department, as Kenney remembers his own daughter requesting to see Coach Ellen on numerous occasions.
Coach Ellen eventually went back to his hometown of Angier, N.C. and that is where his funeral was held on Jan. 20.
He will be missed by not only his family, friends and former players, but also those who never had the pleasure of meeting him at all.