Jacksonville Sports Day

WEEKEND FEATURE: Flagler’s Jean Begins Path to the Majors as Umpire

ST. AUGUSTINE – The dream of many college baseball players is to be drafted or have the opportunity to extend their careers for at least one more year. It is an exclusive club that can continue to play baseball professionally, and for those who do not, they will enter the work force like everyone else.

For James Jean, baseball did not have to end after his brief one-year stint at Flagler College was over. His dream was to become an umpire and make his ways through the minor leagues that way.

Jean had an epiphany during his junior year at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. High School. It happened while he was sitting at a computer during a Tourism Magnet class where the teacher had us do a project on what our future job would be.

“Of course I chose to be an umpire,” said Jean. “I started umpiring at the age of 11 to earn some extra money. But when we were asked during that class that was then when I decided this is what I wanted to do after college.”

Jean graduated from Flagler in the fall of 2016 with a liberal arts degree and set his sights on the Wendelstedt Umpire School in Daytona Beach. The school is highly renowned for producing top-flight umpires and is the No. 1 attended professional umpire school in the world. During the fall baseball season at Flagler, Jean was able to pick the minds of local umpires.

James Jean with Brandon Blome.

Upon completion of the one-month program, Jean was sent to extended spring training in south Florida in April. He was based out of Fort Myers, but also umpired games in Sarasota and Port Charlotte. This helped him prepare for where he currently is, the Gulf Coast League, which is the Rookie League classification in the minor league system.

“As a first year guy, it has allowed me to get a taste of what professional baseball is really like and allowed me to work on my mechanics before the season starts,” added Jean.

Many of the players are lower-round college and high school players as well as international players are in the GCL. Their season started in late June.

Jean has received help along the way, but none more so than Flagler College alum, Shane Livensparger ‘06, who made is major league umpiring debut on June 10 during the Oakland Athletics-Tampa Bay Ray series in St. Petersburg.

“I can just go to him for anything that I need whether it’s any helpful tips he can give me or advice on mechanics,” said Jean. “Shane is someone I know who is only a phone call or text away that could help me out.”

Livensparger was a sport management major at Flagler and ran cross country. He is currently a Triple-A umpire in the International League where he has been the past two years.

Being a former baseball player has its advantages, but Jean is quickly finding out that what he thought he knew about the rules was only scratching the surface.

“There’s a lot of rules I didn’t know as a player,” said Jean. “That is what the umpire schools are for – to give you a better understanding of the rules and how it works as well as the proper way to about umpiring the game of baseball.”

He said the transition from going to a player to an umpire has not been difficult. Jean constantly studies the rulebook, which helps him prepare for any situation he may see on the field. “You don’t want to be stuck not knowing the rules.”

Jean also mentioned the toughest thing he has had to adjust to was to not watch the game. “We are there to umpire the game, not be a spectator.”

Jean played first base for the Saints in the spring of 2016 after transferring in from Louisiana State University Shreveport. In his one season, Jean batted .285 and belted a team-high 12 home runs. He also led the club with 46 runs batted in and a .998 fielding percentage.

He earned all-conference honors at LSUS after hitting .366 with seven homers. Prior to that, Jean attended Seminole State College in Sanford, Fla.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *