After heart surgery, umpire Wooster works to stay in gameLongtime Midcoast resident has umpired for nearly 50 years
Warren — Dennis Wooster has been umpiring baseball in the Midcoast for nearly five decades.
And nothing, even heart surgery, appears ready to slow him down.
Wooster, 64, of Warren, had heart surgery Jan. 6 and made a quick return to the baseball diamond, participating in Oceanside's preseason play day April 7 — a mere 92 days after having serious surgery.
Between varsity and junior varsity high school games, in addition to Babe Ruth, American Legion and Little League baseball contest, Wooster has umpired more than 60 games on the year through late-July. He also was chosen to umpire the Western Class D championship baseball between Buckfield and Valley of Bingham on June 13.
In October, Wooster was looking over his life insurance policy and his 20-year term was set to expire soon, so he called his provider about it.
Wooster has a bicuspid aortic valve, which means he has only two valves going to his aorta instead of three, a defect he has had since birth.
The insurance company questioned the fact that Wooster had not had any cardiac work done in 30 years and said before it would consider renewing his new policy, he would have to get an echocardiogram.
Wooster went for the EKG at Penobscot Bay Medical Center the morning of Nov. 22, two days before Thanksgiving.
"The doctor called me at 3 [p.m.] and said, 'I want to see you at 5 [p.m.]," said Wooster. "And I was like, 'You have my attention.' "
Not only was his heart not functioning properly, but he also had a 5.1 aneurysm.
"They sent me to Dr. [Louis] Coyle [at PBMC] and he told me we can do it one of two ways," said Wooster. "You can come back in three of four months and we can do more tests and see how it looks, or we can get started on it."
The doctor recommended they get started, and Wooster agreed.
"I said, 'Well in four or five months I'm not going to be any younger,' " he said. "And I'm a baseball umpire and I will be on the field in April."
Wooster met with surgeon Dr. Scott Buchanan at Maine Medical Center in Portland Dec. 27 and made an appointment for Jan 6, less than two weeks later, for open-heart surgery.
Wooster had the surgery Friday, Jan. 6 and went home Wednesday, Jan. 11. He received home care for the first few weeks and then completed 24 sessions of rehabilitation before returning to work on the baseball diamond.
Wooster worked the field in limited duty during a baseball play day at Oceanside April 7 and returned to umpiring for a Mariner preseason game against Mount Ararat of Topsham on April 11.
He worked the field for that game and did not return to work behind the plate until April 18 in a junior varsity contest between Belfast and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.
Wooster bought a new chest protector with a special piece that protects the sternum.
He said being one of the older members of the Knox-Lincoln-Waldo Umpire Association, that his fellow co-workers are all looking out for him.
"They're all being mother hens," said Wooster of his fellow umpires. "They don't want me to take chances."
Wooster graduated from Rockland District High School in 1967 and has been umpiring for 47 years.
And if his insistence on returning to the diamond this year despite being months removed from major surgery is any indication, he show no signs of slowing down.
"We'll take it year by year," he said. "Obviously I'd like to get to 50 years, but I definitely want to keep going. It's a good activity, it's good exercise and you've really got to love the game to get out there."
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.