By Martie Thompson
Many people in NW St. Johns County know George Vancore as the Voice of the Bartram Trail Bears and co-founder of the Field of Dreams. Born in Brooklyn, NY, Vancore moved with his wife Mary to Florida in the early 1980s. He’s been volunteering in youth sports ever since. He feels it is very important to give back to his community and has deep feelings for youth sports and the many benefits they provide to kids. But also, when asked why he does what he does, he will say, “Because I enjoy it!” Vancore is a big believer in leading by example and believes that whatever one chooses to do in life, one should love it. “Have a passion for what you do, or don’t bother doing it,” he tells Field of Dreams Buddies at their orientation. “It’s really that simple.” George and Mary have two grown children, George III, a property manager in World Golf Village, and Lauren, a graphic designer. They have two grandchildren, Maggie, 10 and Charlie, 3. The Vancores share their home with their pitbull/terrier dog, Buddy.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: We met in college in Potsdam, NY. It was the only State University of New York that offered a degree in computer science. Mary was going out with one of my fraternity brothers, and he would occasionally stand her up. I would have to take her home and eventually, my fraternity brother and I had a mano-a-mano conversation — and then Mary and I started dating. We were married in 1974 and just celebrated our 48th anniversary on May 25.
Q: What brought you to Florida?
A: I was working for AT&T in Boston at the time of the divestiture [when the Bell System was officially broken up by the government]. I was offered to either go to New Jersey or Florida and we decided to come to Florida. I worked in IT at American Transtech and we thought we’d only stay here a few years. At the time we had our four-year-old son and newborn daughter and we moved to Mandarin. We moved to St. Johns County a couple of years later when our son was ready to start school.
Q: How did you get involved with youth sports?
A: I was initially involved with baseball, since it’s a popular first sport and I had young kids. I served many years as a volunteer Little League umpire. Over time, I was the founder and first president of Julington Creek Little League and we played at Mills Field. I also founded the youth flag football league here and over the years was a Pop Warner coach as well as a Little League and softball coach. Most recently, I was one of five co-founders of the Field of Dreams, a league for children with special needs.
Q: Tell us about your experience at the high school level?
A: As my kids got older, I saw a definite need for volunteers at the high school level. I became the announcer for Nease’s varsity and junior varsity football games because my son played football. When my daughter was a rising senior at Nease, Bartram Trail High School opened and she chose to go there for her senior year. She was a cheerleader. The two teams shared the Nease stadium that first year (each school played a home game every other week) and volunteers worked hard to convert the green of Nease to the blue of Bartram within the stadium. I still get choked up when I recall the first Bartram game and the bus with the football players pulled up and they saw the stadium with their new school colors. They were so surprised. My daughter said, “Thanks, Dad.” And that’s why we do what we do. I still volunteer at Bartram Trail now, 22 years later.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I always say, “I’m retired, but I’m busier than I’ve ever been.” Lately I’ve spent a lot of time with Field of Dreams and getting the Field of Dreams playground opened. We went “beyond the white lines” opening the playground and the next step is we plan to get donors and sponsors for picnic tables there and a fence. I also envision an entranceway with a sign that says, “Field of Dreams — Brought to you by your community” because no taxpayer dollars were spent on it.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I love working in my yard — I cut the grass and trim the bushes. I’m a “putterer.” I also enjoy afternoon naps in my pool with my dog Buddy and watching the Yankees and Seminoles.
Photo courtesy George Vancore
George Vancore with wife Mary.