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2019 Junior League Baseball World Series: August 11 – 18

World Series umpire award winner overcomes health issues, lives his dream at the Junior League Baseball World Series

In July 2018, Jim Vincent was a month away from living his baseball dream by umpiring in the Junior League Baseball World Series in Taylor, Michigan.  Having been a baseball player, coach and now umpire, Vincent was committed to Little League. In fact, his great memories of playing and coaching led him to become an umpire. He said he felt “an obligation to give back.”  But now, just as he was about to reach the pinnacle of his umpire career – working a
World Series – he suddenly knew something wasn’t right.  “I couldn’t breathe,” the Alexandria, Virginia, resident said. His wife Kristine drove him to the hospital emergency room in Fairfax, where a doctor examined him and cleared his lungs, but discovered he had a defective heart valve that needed repair work.  Vincent was crushed. At 60 years old, he was a successful businessman who had never had heart issues before. He had a 30-year history as a consulting engineer and construction manager in northern Virginia and was now a successful managing real-estate broker with Re/Max. He realized he couldn’t run as far as he used to, he was winded and tired, but he
associated that with age, not a medical condition.  Vincent had waited so long to get a World Series assignment and now he faced a difficult decision. He went to the hospital chapel and, after a few minutes, he realized surgery was the
only way to go. The World Series would have to wait.  “The doctor said to me that ‘when you walked into the ER, you were less than a half hour away from a catastrophic heart attack that we couldn’t have saved you from,’” Vincent recalled.  “It was a pretty compelling reason to have the surgery.”  The triple bypass and mitrovalve repair were performed successfully. There would be a recovery period. His World Series assignment was off and Vincent wasn’t sure he would ever get another opportunity.  “It was disappointing enough that I almost didn’t consent to the surgery,” he said. “I was partly in denial. They had cleared my lungs so I felt great. I had a hard time believing that the problem was as serious as the doctors were telling me.”  His physician told Vincent there would be no umpiring for a year. One foul ball going 80 to 100 miles per hour into a chest protector could be a problem.  But “I couldn’t wait a year,”  Vincent said.  In October, he umpired two fall ball games. The second batter in the first game fouled a ball off into his chest protector.  “I survived it and never looked back,” he said.  That month, Vincent reapplied to work a World Series. After the New Year, he received a letter telling him he had been selected. It was a second chance to call balls and strikes in Taylor.  Vincent said he got “pretty emotional” during opening ceremonies.  “It was at that moment I realized I was here,” he said. “It was a year after surgery and I made it.”
His first game was at third base. Throughout the week, he umpires games in both the USA and International pools. He called balls and strikes at home plate, “where I’m most comfortable.” At the end of the week, he worked the world championship game.  “My overall highlight was probably meeting the kids and coaches and the people in this town,” Vincent said. “Had it not been for what happened, I probably wouldn’t appreciate this as much as I do… This time, I’m definitely taking the time to smell the roses.”
On Sunday night, before Vincent returned to Virginia, he became the recipient of the Chuck McAllister Umpire Award, named in honor of the first director of JLWS umpires who died suddenly in the winter of 1999. The award is given to one member of the crew “who best exemplifies the qualities and characteristics of Chuck.”  “It goes to one who reflects the true Little League spirit,” said George Glick, the current director of umpires. Vincent was clearly surprised and emotional when he accepted the award. His wife Kristine was at his side.  “It’s an honor to be here,” he said.