CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not many folks recognize former Winfield High School star Jim Lett when he works out early in the mornings at the YMCA in Teays Valley, but I do.
While I plod along and walk/jog on the treadmill, Lett, who has now spent 19 years in Major League Baseball and 40 years in pro baseball altogether, rips through all of the weight facilities in the place and looks as if he could still play.
His story is worth remembering. It's a good small-town West Virginia story.
Lett was an outstanding multi-sport athlete at Winfield High School from 1966-69, excelling in football, basketball and track. He was coached in all three sports by John Hensley.
His best sport may have been baseball, but the Generals did not have a high school baseball program in the late 1960s. He attracted the attention of the college scouts while playing American Legion and Babe Ruth baseball in the summer.
After high school he strongly considered playing football at Marshall. Had he done so, there is a good possibility he might have been on the 1970 team that was lost in the Nov. 14 plane crash.
Instead, Lett chose to play football at Kentucky. He played on the freshman team in 1969 and the varsity from 1970-72. He played for John Ray and was used as a quarterback, safety and kick returner. The Wildcat games were played in Stoll Field, a charming, smaller stadium in the center of campus, much like old Mountaineer Field in Morgantown.
Like many in our area, Lett has his memories of Nov. 14, 1970.
"We played a freshman game against Marshall at Fairfield Stadium and we competed against many of the sophomores and juniors that were killed in the crash," recalled Lett. "On the night of the plane crash, many Kentucky fans thought that the plane that crashed was our plane. We were coming back from LSU and were flying in the same general area at the time of the crash. It was a pretty nervous night in Lexington that night also."