For NDG native Jim McKean, a career comes full circle
Jim McKean has come full circle.
The NDG native umpired for nearly three decades in Major League Baseball. He started his baseball career on a field in NDG and on Saturday, he officiated what may be his last game on a field in NDG.
“I started here, started at [Boston’s] Fenway Park in the big leagues, ended my career at Fenway Park after thirty years now I’m back here doing probably my last game, I hope,” he said with a grin.
McKean is being honoured by the NDG Minor Baseball League for his accomplishments. In 1973, he started calling games in the big leagues – a second career for him after playing football in the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. An injury led to a career change and he wound up umpiring kids baseball games in the summer, “just as something to do,” he explained.
Someone suggested he go to umpire school, so he went and says his hand-eye coordination allowed him to rise through the ranks. He umpired his first MLB game in 1974 and went on to have a 28-year career, including calling three World Series.
“Well it's very hard for an athlete to all of a sudden, you know, you're the big star everyone's patting you on the butt while you're doing well, and then in officiating they're all screaming at you,” he said.
James Rankine, executive director of NDG Baseball, says McKean has an impressive athletic resume.
“He was a multi-skilled athlete. I mean this was a person that played football, basketball and baseball. And in baseball, when he was 12 years old, he had an 18-0 record and pitched three no hitters,” he said.
McKean has also refereed hockey and was a basketball coach at Concordia University. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
McKean says he started off just like the kids on the field at Loyola Park Saturday -- playing for the love of the game.
“At this age it's all fun. You know parents all think well think well these kids are going to be in the big leagues in three years. That’s not the way. Just play here have fun and see what happens after that,” he said.
He said when he started playing baseball, his goal was to become a player, not an umpire.
“I was just one of the lucky ones.”