Ronald Vincent is the first to deflect credit of his baseball accomplishments to the talent he has been able to coach over 47 seasons, the last 44 at J.H. Rose. He’ll also discuss the tremendous support for the sport seen around Greenville and Pitt County.
But make no mistake that he is a major component of the fervent baseball culture in the city and county. Piling up 900 coaching wins at the high school level fuels those passions.
J.H. Rose’s 9-6 win over Bunn on Saturday at Guy Smith Stadium helped Vincent reach the latest milestone. Following the win, an impromptu ceremony was held on the field. The players commemorated the accomplishment with a banner featuring “RV” – as he’s known by many – and 900 career wins signed by the players.
“It’s just hard to even imagine,” Vincent said. “It’s not one of the things you set out to do when you start coaching. Never would have thought it would happen. It’s a big accomplishment for the city of Greenville, and the baseball people in Greenville and Little League and Babe Ruth and the recreation and parks department. ... You can’t even think about what 900 means.”
It’s an N.C. High School Athletic Association record.
His 868 victories with the Rampants are the most at one school – he was at Farmville Central for three seasons before he took the job at Rose in 1974 – easily outdistancing the 734 wins by Barry Hall, all at East Surry. Hall retired in 2015.
“It’s hard to believe that I’m still here,” Vincent said. “It’s what I do. Keep having good players come through. I can’t fathom the fact that I’ve been doing this this long and not doing something else.”
Thing is, it’s difficult to imagine him doing anything else – or doing it anywhere else. He enjoys the mundane tasks of dragging the infield, lining the field and mowing the grass.
Vincent, 69, has been in Greenville throughout his life, graduating from Rose in 1965 before attending East Carolina, where he played football. He was at Farmville Central for four years – he didn’t coach his first year at the school – before going back to Rose for good.
“Greenville had a good baseball culture, but it was in Little League, and it really didn’t go to the top,” Vincent said. “Greenville Rose High had some good teams, but they weren’t that good. They had some really great players before I got here. We were just able to put it all together.”
Quickly. Rose won its first NCHSAA title in 1975 with some players Vincent had coached in Little League.
“Right after high school, a guy asked me to fill in for him for a couple of weeks,” Vincent said of his first coaching stint, long before he took over at Rose. “Me and my brother took the team the next year and we just kept with it.”
With Vincent at the helm, Rose won four more state titles between 1997 and 2004 – going a perfect 28-0 in 1999 – and added a sixth in 2008, tying another state record by one coach. Pete Williams at Ligon High in Raleigh and Cherryville’s Henry Jones also won six titles each.
One of the keys to his success is the ability to relate to the players and keep up with the times, as assistant coach Clay Medlin notices.
“The thing I’ll give RV is a lot of times older people who have done things so long have difficulty changing,” said Medlin, who played for Vincent at Rose from 1999-2002 and has been with the program in a coaching capacity since 2004. “But he keeps up with the times as good as anybody. He has a good time with the kids and he relates to the kids as good today as he did 15, 20, 30 years ago, which is pretty miraculous.”
Medlin continued: “He can read people, he can read players, he can read other teams as good as anybody. When he says something, it means a lot.”
When a coach has been in the same place for as long as Vincent has, the questions about impending retirement grow louder. Vincent patiently acknowledges this by admitting it will probably be dictated by his physical health, “because when I can’t come out here and do what I need to do, it’s time to quit.”
Medlin isn’t busy counting the days to his friend’s retirement.
“He keeps saying to me – and repeats it – with the kids we have, how can you give it up?” Medlin said. “How much more fun can you have than come out here with 27 kids every day doing something that they absolutely love? That’s why he was such a good teacher and mentor in school. For him to be able to facilitate an open, competitive, fun atmosphere for them, that’s what it’s all about.”
Medlin’s favorite aspect about Vincent has nothing to do with baseball. He says that Vincent doesn’t base his relationships with his players on their athletic or baseball abilities, on where they came from or who their parents are.
“Obviously, we have nine of 10 who play more than others, but he’ll talk about the guy on the end of the bench being a funny kid or being a neat kid,” Medlin said. “He loves everybody. ... That’s something that’s not a baseball characteristic. That’s a life characteristic. That’s what you have to strive for.”
By The Numbers:
▪ 900 wins (state record)
▪ 868 wins at Rose (state record for wins at one school)
▪ 19.8 wins per season
▪ 44 seasons at J.H. Rose
▪ 47 seasons, all in Pitt County
▪ 1974: Season Vincent arrived at J.H. Rose
▪ 6 state championships (tied for state record)